Osteolytic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteomyelitis, and periodontitis, are usually associated with bacterial infections. However, the precise mechanisms by which bacteria induce bone loss still remain unclear. Evidence exists that Tolllike receptor (TLR) signaling regulates both inflammation and bone metabolism and that the receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) and its receptor RANK are the key regulators for bone remodeling and for the activation of osteoclasts. Here, we investigate the direct effects of the periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis on osteoclast differentiation and show that P. gingivalis differentially modulates RANKL-induced osteoclast formation contingent on the state of differentiation of osteoclast precursors. In addition, although an optimal induction of cytokines by P. gingivalis is dependent on TLR2 and TLR4, as well as myeloid differentiation factor 88 and Toll/IL-1R domain-containing adaptor-inducing IFN-β, P. gingivalis utilizes TLR2/ myeloid differentiation factor 88 in modulating osteoclast differentiation. P. gingivalis modulates RANKL-induced osteoclast formation by differential induction of NFATc1 and c-Fos. More importantly, RANKL-mediated lineage commitment also has an impact on P. gingivalis-induced cytokine production. RANKL inhibits P. gingivalis-induced cytokine production by down-regulation of TLR/NF-κB and upregulation of NFATc1. Our findings reveal novel aspects of the interactions between TLR and RANK signaling and provide a new model for understanding the mechanism underlying the pathogenesis of bacteria-mediated bone loss. © 2011 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.