Introduction: Apoptosis and differentiation are among the consequences of changes in intracellular Ca2+ levels. In this study, we investigated the effects of the endoplasmic reticular Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor, thapsigargin (TG), on osteoclast apoptosis and differentiation.Materials and Methods: Both RAW264.7 cells and primary spleen cells were used to examine the effect of TG on RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis. To determine the action of TG on signaling pathways, we used reporter gene assays for NF-kappa B and activator protein-1 (AP-1) activity, Western blotting for phosphoextracellular signal-related kinase (ERK), and fluorescent probes to measure changes in levels of intracellular calcium and reactive oxygen species (ROS). To assess rates of apoptosis, we measured changes in annexin staining, caspase-3 activity, and chromatin and F-actin microfilament structure.Results: At concentrations that caused a rapid rise in intracellular Ca2+, TG increased caspase-3 activity and promoted apoptosis in osteoclast-like cells (OLCs). Low concentrations of TG, which were insufficient to measurably alter intracellular Ca2+, unexpectedly suppressed caspase-3 activity and enhanced RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis. At these lower concentrations, TG potentiated ROS production and RANKL-induced NF-kappa B activity, but suppressed RANKL-induced AP-1 activity and had little effect on ERK phosphorylation.Conclusion: Our novel findings of a biphasic effect of TG are incompletely explained by our current understanding of TG action, but raise the possibility that low intensity or local changes in subcellular Ca2+ levels may regulate intracellular differentiation signaling. The extent of cross-talk between Ca2+ and RANKL-mediated intracellular signaling pathways might be important in determining whether cells undergo apoptosis or differentiate into OLCs.