Confocal microscopy, in association with three-dimensional reconstruction, revealed that microtubules and microfilaments in differentiating PC-12 cells were disrupted in a dose-dependent manner following pressure treatment. Hydrostatic pressure caused cell rounding, microtubule and microfilament disorganization, neurite retraction and the formation of a microtubule ring adjacent to the cell surface. Volume analysis from computer-generated reconstructed cells, at atmospheric pressure, showed that the apparent volume of microtubules and microfilaments, normalized to 100 units, was 22 and 11 respectively. At 4000 and 8000psi, the apparent microtubule volume was reduced to 16 and 12 units, respectively, and the apparent microfilament volume was reduced to 8 and 5 units, respectively. Thus, the apparent microtubule and microfilament volumes in PC-12 cells decreased as pressure increased. In the presence of taxol and phalloidin which stabilize the cytoarchitecture, cells resist the effects of hydrostatic pressure. In the presence of colchicine and cytochalasin D compounds which destabilize the cytoarchitecture, cells are more susceptible to the disrupting effects of hydrostatic pressure. The effects of hydrostatic pressure on cell morphology were reversible.