Although the effects of vitamin K2 and vitamin K1 on bone metabolism have been reported, the difference between them has not been investigated. We now show the effects of menatetrenone, one of the vitamin K2 homologues, and vitamin K1 on bone resorption. Menatetrenone at greater than 3 x 10(-6) M significantly inhibited the calcium release from mouse calvaria induced by 3 x 10(-10) M of 1,25(OH)2D3 or 10(-7) M of prostaglandin E2, and it also inhibited osteoclast-like multinucleated cell (MNC) formation induced by 10(-8) M of 1,25(OH)2D3 in co-culture of spleen cells and stromal cells at the same concentrations. In contrast, the same doses of vitamin K1 had no effects on bone resorption and MNC formation in these in vitro systems. The inhibitory effect of menatetrenone on the calcium release from calvaria was not affected by the addition of 3 x 10(-5) M of warfarin, an inhibitor of vitamin K cycle. The same concentration of geranylgeraniol, the side-chain component of menatetrenone at the 3-position of the naphthoquinone, inhibited tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRACP) activity and MNC formation to the same degree as menatetrenone. Phytol, the side-chain component of vitamin K1, did not affect TRACP activity at all doses tested, but weakly inhibited MNC formation. Moreover, multi-isoprenyl alcohols of two to seven units, except geranylgeraniol which contains four units, did not effect MNC formation. These findings suggest that the inhibitory effect of menatetrenone on bone resorption is not due to gamma-carboxylation and that the side chain of menatetrenone may play an important role in this inhibitory effect.