The contraction of native collagen lattices by resident mesenchymal cells mimics the organization of collagen during development and repair. Lattice contraction is cell density dependent, suggesting that cell-to-cell communications may contribute to the process. This possibility was investigated by comparing lattice contraction by four rat osteoblastic cell lines: ROS 17/2.8 cells (ROS); ROS transfected with an antisense cDNA sequence of the gap junctional protein connexin 43 (RCx16); ROS transfected with connexin 45 cDNA, a connexin not normally expressed in ROS cells (ROS/Cx45); and ROS transfected with cDNA encoding carboxy-terminal truncated Cx45 (ROS/Cx45tr). The cell coupling indices, which reflect gap junctional communication, were quantitated by the fluorescent dye scrape loading. ROS cells were well coupled (index 3.0), ROS/Cx45tr were better coupled (index 4.2), ROS/Cx45 were poorly coupled (index 1.7), and RCx16 showed no coupling (index 1.1). As determined by immunoblotting, the level of connexin 43 protein was increased in both ROS/Cx45tr and ROS/Cx45 cell lines compared with ROS cells, while the level in RCx16 cells was reduced. ROS populated collagen lattices (PCLs) contracted significantly more at day 5 (177 mm2 to 67 mm2) than ROS/Cx45tr (84 mm2), ROS/Cx45 (108 mm2), or RCx16 (114 mm2). Myosin ATPase activity, which is required for lattice contraction, was equivalent in all four cell lines, indicating that it was not responsible for inhibiting PCL contraction. ROS cells in collagen appeared elongated compared with the other cell lines which were more rounded. These experiments suggest gap junctional communication contributes to PCL contraction by resident osteoblasts.