The influence of intermittent compressive force (ICF) and of continuous compressive force (CCF) on calcification of growth plate cartilage was investigated, using organ cultures of fetal mouse cartilaginous long bone rudiments. Sixteen-day-old metatarsal rudiments, still consisting of uncalcified cartilage, were isolated and cultured for 5 days. Initial calcification of hypertrophic cartilage occurred under control conditions (atmospheric pressure), and under the influence of ICF or CCF by intermittently or continuously compressing the gas phase above the culture medium. Calcification was monitored by means of 45Ca and 32P incorporation into calcium-phosphate mineral and by morphometric methods. Both ICF and CCF increased cartilage calcification, but ICF was about twice as effective as CCF. Killed rudiments did not calcify during the culture period, nor did ICF or CCF increase the incorporation of label. The effects of ICF and CCF on calcification could not be mimicked by increasing the Po2 and Pco2 levels in the gas phase. The length of the central zone of calcified cartilage was significantly increased by ICF and CCF. We conclude that hypertrophic chondrocytes respond directly to ICF and CCF by an increased deposition of calcium-phosphate mineral in the matrix. Discontinuous mechanical stimulation evokes a higher cellular response than does continuous stimulation.