Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) play an important role in various kinds of pattern formation and organogenesis during vertebrate development. In the skeleton, BMPs induce the differentiation of cells of chondrocytic and osteoblastic cell lineage and enhance their function. However, the action of BMPs on osteoclastic bone resorption, a process essential for pathophysiological bone development and regeneration, is still controversial. In this study, we examine the direct effect of BMPs on osteoclastic bone-resorbing activity in a culture of highly purified rabbit mature osteoclasts. BMP-2 caused a dose- and time-dependent increase in bone resorption pits excavated by the isolated osteoclasts. BMP-4 also stimulated osteoclastic bone resorption. The increase in osteoclastic bone resorption induced by BMP-2 was abolished by the simultaneous addition of follistatin, a BMP/activin binding protein that negates their biological activity. Just as it increased bone resorption, BMP-2 also elevated the messenger RNA expressions of cathepsin K and carbonic anhydrase II, which are key enzymes for the degradation of organic and inorganic bone matrices, respectively. Type IA and II BMP receptors (BMPRs), and their downstream signal transduction molecules, Smad1 and Smad5, were expressed in isolated osteoclasts as well as in osteoblastic cells, whereas type IB BMPR was undetectable. BMPs directly stimulate mature osteoclast function probably mediated by BMPR-IA and BMPR-II and their downstream molecules expressed in osteoclasts. The results presented here expand our understanding of the multifunctional roles of BMPs in bone development.