The most obvious proteolytic event controlled by the osteoclast is bone matrix removal in the resorption compartment. Here, however, we investigated whether matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity of the osteoclast might be involved in its migration to its future bone resorption site. We seeded either nonpurified or purified osteoclasts onto either uncoated or collagen-coated dentine slices and cultured them in the presence or absence of specific MMP inhibitors. When nonpurified osteoclasts were cultured on uncoated dentine, MMP inhibitors did not prevent pit formation, as previously reported. However, when collagen-coated dentine was used, pit formation was strongly inhibited by MMP inhibitors. The same results were obtained when performing these experiments with purified osteoclasts, thus demonstrating the ability of osteoclasts by themselves to migrate through collagen via an MMP-dependent pathway. This demonstration was confirmed by using collagen-coated invasion chambers. In addition, the invasions were not, or only slightly, inhibited by inhibitors of serine proteinases, cysteine proteinases, and carbonic anhydrase, though the latter two are well established bone resorption inhibitors that strongly inhibited pit formation. It is concluded that osteoclasts can migrate through collagen in the absence of other cells and that this migration relies on MMP activity, whereas other enzymes typically required for bone removal in the resorption compartment are not essential for migration. Some of the osteoclast MMPs might thus be relevant to the migratory/invasive activity of the osteoclast, rather than to its bone resorptive activity itself.