Formation of osteoclast-like cells in mouse bone marrow cultures induced by either 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1,25-(OH)(2)D(3)), parathyroid hormone (PTH) or prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), respectively, shows partial dependence on interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) activation. This suggests that locally produced IL-6 could be relevant for osteoclast formation. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of 1,25-(OH)(2)D(3), PTH, and PGE(2) on IL-6 production in stromal/osteoblastic cell lines. It appeared that these bone resorptive factors differed widely in their ability to modulate IL-6 mRNA expression and, consequently, protein synthesis in each of the cell lines studied. While 1,25-(OH)(2)D(3) was marginally effective only in ST2 cells, and PTH caused a 2- to 20-fold increase in IL-6 levels MC3T3-E1 and UMR-106 cells, PGE(2) enhanced IL-6 production in the ST2 and MC3T3-E1 cell line by two to three orders of magnitude, respectively, and also induced IL-6 in fibroblastic L929 cells. PGE(2)-stimulated IL-6 release from mesenchymal cells seems to be important for autocrine/paracrine control of osteoclast formation in health and disease.