The periodontal ligament, a highly specialized connective tissue situated between the tooth and the alveolar bone of the tooth socket, has been thought to influence the remodeling of the alveolar bone. The effects of two human periodontal ligament fibroblastic cell populations (HPLFs) on osteoclast-like cell (OCL) formation and the function of authentic osteoclasts were examined. The addition of the conditioned media (CM) from both HPLF cultures (HPLF-CMs) to mouse bone marrow culture inhibited OCL formation in spite of the presence of 10(-8)M 1alpha, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1alpha,25(OH)2D3). This inhibitory effect was most remarkable when both CMs were added during day 6 to day 9 following bone marrow culture, just at the late stage of OCL differentiation. HPLF-CMs also induced a significant decrease in the pit area and the pit number formed by authentic osteoclasts on ivory slices. The administration of neutralizing monoclonal antibody (OI-1) against human osteoprotegerin (OPG)/osteoclastogenesis inhibitory factor (OCIF) with HPLF-CMs to mouse bone marrow culture almost completely blocked the inhibitory effect of these CMs on OCL formation. Immunofluorescent examination of HPLF with OI-1 revealed intense positive reactivity in the cytoplasm. Western blot analysis of HPLF-CM using anti-human OPG/OCIF polyclonal antibody resulted in the detection of bands of 60 kDa and 120 kDa which were consistent with those of OPG/OCIF. These results suggest that HPLF cells produce and secrete OPG/OCIF, and that this factor from HPLF prevents the differentiation of the late preosteoclast and the function of the mature osteoclasts.