Clenbuterol treatment for several weeks prevented up to one-third of the reduction in mineralization of femurs and tibias caused by sectioning of the sciatic nerve in young rats. The normalizing effect of clenbuterol on bone mineral content was directly proportional to similar alterations in muscle mass, which in turn could be abolished by ablation of the triceps surae or hindlimb unweighting and reduced by hypophysectomy. In contrast to the effects of inactivity, ovariectomy caused small reductions (2-4%) in bone density that were not affected by clenbuterol and were not accompanied by changes in ash weight. Together, our results suggest that the ability of beta 2-agonists to retard the loss in net muscle mass and enhance contractile tension can oppose net bone loss caused by denervation. Increases in contractile tension caused by beta 2-agonists may enhance the utility of exercise or electrical stimulation as countermeasures for the effects of scoliosis, prolonged bed rest, spinal cord injury, or weightlessness in space on bone mass.