Osteoporosis caused by estrogen deficiency is characterized by enhanced bone resorption mediated by osteoclasts. Adhesion to bone matrix and survival of differentiated osteoclasts is necessary to resorb bone. The aim of our study was to investigate the in vitro effects of estradiol on murine osteoclasts. RAW 264.7 cells treated with 30 ng/ml RANK-L were used as a model for osteoclastogenesis. Estradiol (10(-8)M) for 5 days induced an inhibition of osteoclast differentiation and beta3 expression. Estradiol inhibited significantly the adhesion of mature osteoclasts by 30%. Furthermore estradiol-induced apoptosis shown by with nuclear condensation and Bax/Bcl2 ratio. In addition, estradiol enhanced caspase-3, -8 and -9 activities. This effect completely disappeared using specific caspase-8 inhibitor. However, increased caspase-3 activity by estradiol was observed in the presence of caspase-9 inhibitor, indicating the preferential involvement of caspase-8 pathway. Fas and FasL mRNA expression was not regulated by estradiol. However, estradiol enhanced caspase-3 activity in Fas-induced apoptosis on mature osteoclasts, suggesting that this might interact with the Fas-signaling pathway. These data suggest that estradiol decreases bone resorption by several mechanisms including adhesion and apoptosis of osteoclasts.