Prostaglandins and nitric oxide both modulate bone resorption and bone formation. We previously reported that a nitrosylated derivative of flurbiprofen, termed HCT1026, exerted inhibitory effects on osteoclastic bone resorption, which could not be reproduced by combining the parent compound with nitric oxide (NO) donors. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanism by which HCT1026 inhibits bone resorption. We compared the effects of flurbiprofen and HCT1026 on osteoclast and osteoblast activity with those of HCT1027--an analogue of HCT1026, which lacks an NO-donating moiety. We found that HCT1026 and HCT1027 inhibited bone resorption in interleukin (IL)-1-stimulated murine osteoblast-bone marrow cocultures, with half-maximal effects (IC50) at 20 +/- 5 microM for HCT1026 and 25 +/- 6 microM for HCT1027 compared with 399 +/- 25 microM for flurbiprofen (P <0.0001). These differences were unrelated to cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibition since HCT1026 and HCT1027 were about seven to eight times less potent than flurbiprofen at inhibiting COX-1 activity and half as potent at inhibiting COX-2 activity. Further studies showed that HCT1026 and HCT1027 activated caspase-3 in rabbit osteoclasts and promoted osteoclast apoptosis, as assessed by nuclear morphology and TUNEL assays. We conclude that HCT1026 and HCT1027 inhibit osteoclast formation and activity by a mechanism that is independent of NO production and COX inhibition. This raises the possibility that both compounds interact with a novel molecular target expressed on osteoclasts to promote apoptosis and inhibit bone resorption. This demonstrates that HCT1026 and derivatives could represent a novel class of antiresorptive drugs with therapeutic value in the treatment of bone diseases associated with accelerated bone loss due to osteoclast activation.