The ability of osteoclasts (OC) to migrate and resorb bone is thought to be dependent on cytoskeletal function and adhesion. Therefore, we investigated the cytoskeleton and the adhesion patterns of rabbit OC on glass and on devitalized bone slices, using specific antibodies to cytoskeletal elements and fluorescence and interference reflection microscopy. Microtubules (MT) were similar in OC on both substrata, and appeared in a pattern typical of that described for many cells. Multiple centriolar complexes were observed in most OC, either as one large aggregate in the center of the cell or dispersed singly or in small aggregates close to individual nuclei. Staining of microfilaments (MF) was similar on both substrata and appeared primarily as an F-actin network. MF distribution was different in OC associated with resorption lacunae with intense staining over those regions. In the OC on glass, high F-actin staining was detectable at the periphery in dots and rosette-like structures, which also stained for vinculin. The adhesion patterns indicated that OC on glass do not make large focal contacts, but appear to make a few tiny focal contacts that are not associated with the rosette-like structures. Most of the undersurface of the OC appeared either to be involved in close contacts or to be separated by distances of >100 nm from the substratum. These studies indicate that the MF distribution and the adhesion patterns of rabbit OC are typical of motile cells, that the distribution of the cytoskeleton of rabbit OC on glass and on bone slices is similar, and that MF may be involved in the morphological changes associated with resorption.