The osteoclast is a monocyte-derived cell with complex regulatory control due to its role, balancing calcium homeostasis with skeletal modelling and repair. Normal differentiation requires tyrosine kinase- and tumor necrosis-family receptors, normally fms and RANK. Ligands for these receptors plus unidentified serum or cell-presented factor(s) are needed for in vitro differentiation, possibly signalling via an immune-like tyrosine kinase acceptor molecule. Osteoclast development and activity are increased by cytokines signalling through GP130, such as IL-6, by TGF-beta, and by IL-1, although these cannot replace serum. Other tyrosine kinase receptors including kit and met can augment fms signalling, and TNFs other than RANKL, including TNFalpha and TRAIL, modify RANK signalling, which is also susceptible to interference by interferons. The situation is further complicated by G-protein coupled receptors including the calcitonin receptor, by integrin or calcium-mediated signals, and by estrogen receptors, which operate in bone largely via NO downstream signals. Differentiation, activity, and survival signals merge in intracellular second messengers. These include cytoplasmic kinases of several families; differentiation pathways often terminate in Erk/Jun kinases or NF-kappaB. Key regulatory intermediates include TRAF6, src, Smad3, phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase, Jak/Stat, and the cGMP-dependent protein kinase I. There are substantial uncertainties regarding how intracellular agents connect to primary signals. The frontier includes characterization of how scaffolding/adapter proteins, such as cbl, gab, grb, p130Cas, and shc, as well as itam-containing proteins and nonreceptor tyrosine kinase adapters of the src and syk families, delimit and integrate signals of multiple receptors to bring about specific outcomes.