PGE2 functions as a potent stimulator of bone resorption. The action of PGE2 is thought to be mediated by some PGE receptor subtypes present in osteoblastic cells. In this study, we examined the involvement of PGE receptor subtypes, EP1, EP2, EP3, and EP4, in PGE2-induced bone resorption using specific agonists for the respective EPs. In mouse calvaria cultures, EP4 agonist markedly stimulated bone resorption, but its maximal stimulation was less than that induced by PGE2. EP2 agonist also stimulated bone resorption, but only slightly. EP1 and EP3 agonists did not stimulate it at all. RT-PCR showed that osteoblastic cells isolated from newborn mouse calvaria expressed all of the EPs messenger RNA (mRNA). Both EP2 agonist and EP4 agonist induced cAMP production and the expression of osteoclast differentiation factor (ODF) mRNA in osteoblastic cells. Simultaneous addition of EP2 and EP4 agonists cooperatively induced cAMP production and ODF mRNA expression. In mouse bone marrow cultures, EP2 and EP4 agonists moderately induced osteoclast formation, but the simultaneous addition of the two agonists cooperatively induced it, similar to that by PGE2. In calvaria culture from EP4 knockout mice, a marked reduction in bone resorption to PGE2 was found. In EP4 knockout mice, EP4 agonist failed to induce bone resorption, but EP2 agonist slightly, but significantly, induced bone resorption. These findings suggest that PGE2 stimulates bone resorption by a mechanism involving cAMP and ODF, which is mediated mainly by EP4 and partially by EP2.