Because a temporal arrest in the G1 phase of the cell cycle is thought to be a prerequisite for cell differentiation, we investigated cell cycle factors that critically influence the differentiation of mouse osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells induced by bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2), a potent inducer of osteoblast differentiation. Of the G1 cell cycle factors examined, the expression of cyclin-dependent kinase 6 (Cdk6) was found to be strongly down-regulated by BMP-2/Smads signaling, mainly via transcriptional repression. The enforced expression of Cdk6 blocked BMP-2-induced osteoblast differentiation to various degrees, depending on the level of its overexpression. However, neither BMP-2 treatment nor Cdk6 overexpression significantly affected cell proliferation, suggesting that the inhibitory effect of Cdk6 on cell differentiation was exerted by a mechanism that is largely independent of its cell cycle regulation. These results indicate that Cdk6 is a critical regulator of BMP-2-induced osteoblast differentiation and that its Smads-mediated down-regulation is essential for efficient osteoblast differentiation.