Several studies have suggested that the osteoclast is derived from a mononuclear precursor which is found in bone marrow. We have developed a system for studying the formation of osteoclast-like multinucleated cells in long-term bone marrow culture of baboon cells. Recombinant human CSF-GM and highly purified CSF-1, both of which stimulate the proliferation of monocyte/macrophage precursors, were found to increase the number of osteoclast-like cells formed in long-term bone marrow culture. CSF-GM stimulated multinucleated cell formation more consistently than CSF-1. The subsequent addition of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3) to cultures initially treated with CSF-GM or CSF-1 further increased multinucleated cell formation. Autoradiographic studies indicate that CSF stimulated multinucleated cell formation by increasing the proliferation of the precursor cell, and that the potentiating effect of 1,25-(OH)2D3 was caused by fusion of the increased numbers of precursors. These studies suggest that the interaction of locally produced colony-stimulating factors with circulating calcium regulating hormones may be important in the control of osteoclast formation and bone resorption.