Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at risk for the development of a generalized form of bone loss affecting the axial and appendicular skeleton. In addition, juxta-articular osteopenia and focal erosion of marginal and subchondral bone are commonly seen. The pathogenesis of focal bone erosions is an area of active investigation. Studies of tissue sections from sites of bone erosion in rheumatoid arthritis and in animal models of inflammatory arthritis have identified multinucleated cells with the phenotype of osteoclasts in bone resorption lacunae in these sites, suggesting that osteoclasts mediate a component of this pathologic bone loss. Numerous soluble and cell-membrane factors produced by rheumatoid synovial tissues are likely to play a role in the initiation and progression of bone erosions. In addition, recent studies suggest a role for T lymphocytes and their products in osteoclast-mediated bone loss. This paper reviews the cellular mechanisms and factors implicated in bone erosions in rheumatoid arthritis, and discusses the possible therapeutic strategies suggested by these findings.