Osteoclasts (OCLs) are multinucleated bone-resorbing cells that are differentiated by receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand (RANKL) and macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF). Our recent studies have shown that heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a stress-induced cytoprotective enzyme, plays an important role in OCL differentiation, although the pharmacological significance of this effect remains unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects of tert-butylhydroquinone (tBHQ), a pharmacological HO-1 inducer, on in vitro differentiation of bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs) or murine monocytic cell line RAW-D into OCLs. tBHQ inhibited the formation and the bone-resorbing activity of OCLs. Moreover, tBHQ treatment decreased the expression of nuclear factor of activated T cells cytoplasmic-1 (NFATc1), a master regulator of OCL differentiation, and of OCL markers transcriptionally regulated by NFATc1, such as Src and cathepsin K. In addition, tBHQ impaired phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), Jun N-terminal kinase, Akt, and inhibitor of nuclear factor kappa B alpha (IκBα). Finally, we show that tBHQ inhibited the release of high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), a recently identified activator of OCL differentiation. Thus, tBHQ inhibits OCL differentiation through the HO-1/HMGB1 pathways. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.