Osteoclasts (OCs) undergo rapid apoptosis without trophic factors, such as macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF). Their apoptosis was associated with a rapid and sustained increase in the pro-apoptotic BH3-only Bcl-2 family member Bim. This was caused by the reduced ubiquitylation and proteasomal degradation of Bim that is mediated by c-Cbl. Although the number of OCs was increased in the skeletal tissues of bim-/- mice, the mice exhibited mild osteosclerosis due to reduced bone resorption. OCs differentiated from bone marrow cells of bim-/- animals showed a marked prolongation of survival in the absence of M-CSF, compared with bim+/+ OCs, but the bone-resorbing activity of bim-/- OCs was significantly reduced. Overexpression of a degradation-resistant lysine-free Bim mutant in bim-/- cells abrogated the anti-apoptotic effect of M-CSF, while wild-type Bim did not. These results demonstrate that ubiquitylation-dependent regulation of Bim levels is critical for controlling apoptosis and activation of OCs.