Polyclonal antisera to synthetic peptides matching sequences on the cytoplasmic regions of connexin-43, a gap junction protein first identified in rat heart, have been used to immunolabel gap junctions in the calvarial bone, maintained intact as in vivo, of 1- to 2-week-old rats. The specimens were examined in reflection and fluorescence modes by scanning laser confocal microscopy, and the numbers of gap junctions and their sizes estimated. The mean number of connexin-43 immunolabelled junctions per osteoblast (n = 65) was 15.3 (SD +/- 4.5). The mean length of 227 junctions, selected for the sharpness of the image of the fluorescent spot, was 0.67 micron (SD +/- 0.18; range 0.37-1.29 microns) and their mean area 0.26 micron2 (SD +/- 0.145; range 0.075-0.93 micron2); these probably fell within the upper half of the total size range. Gap junctions were detected between preosteoblasts, osteoblasts, osteocytes and chondrocytes, and between these juxtaposed cell types. In addition, connexin-43 immunolabelled junctions were found between some osteoclasts and overlying mononuclear cells at active sites of resorption.