Osteoclasts are multinucleated cells that differentiate from hematopoietic cells and possess characteristics responsible for bone resorption. To study the involvement of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) in osteoclastogenesis of the murine monocytic cell line RAW264.7, which can differentiate into osteoclast-like cells in the presence of the receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa B ligand (RANKL), we treated the cells with specific inhibitors of p38 MAPK, PD169316 and SB203580, and specific inhibitors of MAPK extracellular signaling-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK), U0126 and PD98059. Each inhibitor blocked differentiation into osteoclast-like cells when the cells were plated at the standard cell density (2000-4000 cells per well (96-well)). However, the effect of MEK inhibitors on osteoclastogenesis varied according to the initial cell density during culture, because cell growth was clearly inhibited by them. When the cells were plated at more than 8000 cells per well, marked enhancement and acceleration of the differentiation were observed. In addition, immunoblot analysis revealed that phosphorylation of ERK was increased by treatment with the p38 inhibitors, whereas the MEK inhibitors increased phosphorylation of p38, which implies a seesaw-like balance between ERK and p38 phosphorylation. We suggest that osteoclastogenesis is regulated under a balance between ERK and p38 pathways and that the MEK/ERK pathway negatively regulates osteoclastogenesis while the p38 pathway does so positively. This is the first report that an inhibitor of signal transduction enhanced osteoclastogenesis.