The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family has been one of the most intensively studied families of proteins in the past two decades. The TNF family constitutes 19 members that mediate diverse biological functions in a variety of cellular systems. The TNF family members regulate cellular functions through binding to membrane-bound receptors belonging to the TNF receptor (TNFR) family. Members of the TNFR family lack intrinsic kinase activity and thus they initiate signaling by interacting intracellular signaling molecules such as TNFR associated factor (TRAF), TNFR associated death domain (TRADD) and Fas-associated death domain (FADD). In bone metabolism, it has been shown that numerous TNF family members including receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL), TNF-α, Fas ligand (FasL) and TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) play pivotal roles in the differentiation, function, survival and/or apoptosis of osteoclasts, the principal bone-resorbing cells. These TNF family members not only regulate physiological bone remodeling but they are also implicated in the pathogenesis of various bone diseases such as osteoporosis and bone loss in inflammatory conditions. This review will focus on our current understanding of the regulatory roles and molecular signaling of these TNF family members in osteoclasts. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.