It has been postulated that the transduction of mechanical stress signals to bone cells occurs via loading-dependent flow of interstitial fluid through the lacuno-canalicular network of bone. We have shown earlier that chicken osteocytes release enhanced amounts of prostaglandin E2 after 1 h treatment with pulsating fluid flow (PFF, 0.5 +/- 0.02 Pa, 5 Hz). Here we study the acute response to PFF on three cell populations derived from fetal chick calvariae, namely periosteal fibroblasts (PF), an osteoblast and osteocyte containing population (OBmix), and osteocytes (OCY), and the involvement of the actin-cytoskeleton in this process. All three cell populations rapidly (OCY: within 5 min, OBmix, PF: within 10 min) increased their release of prostaglandins E2 and I2 in response to PFF, but the response by OCY was 2-4 times higher than that by OBmix or PF. Disruption of the actin-cytoskeleton by cytochalasin B completely abolished the response. We conclude that osteocytes are more sensitive to fluid shear stress than immature bone cells, and that the actin-cytoskeleton is involved in the response to fluid flow.