The separate and combined effects of loading and 17β-estradiol (E2) or 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) on [3H]thymidine and [3H]proline incorporation were investigated in cultured ulna shafts from male and female rats. Ulnae were cultured and loaded to produce physiological strains in the presence or absence of 10−8 M E2 or DHT. Loading engendered similar increases in incorporation of [3H]thymidine and [3H]proline in male and female bones. E2 engendered greater increases in incorporation in females than in males, and DHT greater increases in males than in females. In males E2 with loading produced increases in both [3H]thymidine and [3H]proline incorporation, which approximated to the arithmetic addition of the increases due to E2 and loading separately. In females E2 with loading produced increases greater than those in males, and substantially greater than the addition of the effects of E2 and loading separately. Loading with DHT in males also showed additional [3H]thymidine and [3H]proline incorporation. In females there was additional incorporation of [3H]proline, but not [3H]thymidine. The location of incorporation of [3H]thymidine and [3H]proline was consistent with their level of incorporation reflecting periostea! osteogenesis, in which case the early osteogenic effects of sex hormones are gender-specific when acting alone and in combination with loading. In males the effects of estrogen and testosterone add to, but do not enhance, the osteogenic responses to loading. In females testosterone with loading produces an additional effect on [3H]proline incorporation but no greater effect than loading alone on that of [3H]thymidine. In contrast, estrogen and loading together produce a greater effect than the sum of the two influences separately. Because premenopausal bone mass will have been achieved under the influence of loading and estrogen acting together, these findings suggest that the bone loss which follows estrogen withdrawal may result, at least in part, from reduction in the effectiveness of the loading-related stimulus on bone cell activity. This stimulus is normally responsible for maintaining bone mass and architecture.