Mechanical loads are essential towards maintaining bone mass and skeletal integrity. Such loads generate various stimuli at the cellular level, including cyclic hydraulic pressure (CHP) and fluid shear stress (FSS). To gain insight into the anabolic responses of osteoblasts to CHP and FSS, we subjected MC3T3-E1 preosteoblasts to either FSS (12 dynes/cm(2)) or CHP varying from 0 to 68 kPa at 0.5 Hz. As with FSS, CHP produced a significant increase in ATP release over static controls within 5 min of onset. Cell stiffness examined by atomic force microscopy increased after 15 min of either CHP or FSS stimulation, which was attenuated when extracellular ATP was hydrolyzed with apyrase. As previously shown FSS induced polymerization of actins into stress fibers. However, the microtubule network was completely disrupted under FSS. In contrast, CHP appeared to maintain strong microtubule and f-actin networks. The purinergic signaling was found to be involved in the remodeling of f-actin, but not microtubule. Both CHP and FSS applied for 1 hour increased expression of COX-2. These data indicate that, while CHP and FSS produce similar anabolic responses, these stimuli have very different effects on the cytoskeleton remodeling and could contribute to loss of mechanosensitivity with extended loading.