Osteoclasts are cells involved in bone reabsorbing and hence in postmenopausal bone loss. There is no evidence of increased in vitro spontaneous osteoclast formation in postmenopausal osteoporosis. The aim of our study was to evaluate spontaneous osteoclastogenesis in osteoporosis. Bone mineral density, markers of bone turnover, and cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) on dentine slices with or without the addition of 1,25-OH vitamin D3 ([10(-8) M]) were obtained from 18 osteoporotic women and 15 controls. To verify cytokine production by PBMC cultures, supernatants were collected on days 3 and 6 and tested for TNF-alpha and RANKL. The data obtained were compared between patients and controls by one-way ANOVA and correlated by Pearson's coefficient. We found a significant increase in osteoclast formation and bone reabsorbing activity in patients with respect to controls; in addition, the production of TNF-alpha and RANKL is significantly higher in patients. Furthermore, osteoclast number is inversely correlated with bone mineral density and directly with RANKL in culture supernatants. Our data demonstrated an increased spontaneous osteoclastogenesis in women affected by postmenopausal osteoporosis: this increase may be explained by the higher production of TNF-alpha and RANKL by PBMC cultures of osteoporotic patients.