Abstract Previous experiments indicate that bone cells respond to externally applied stimuli with fluctuations of cyclic nucleotide levels. The objective of this experiment was to study the response of bone at the midpalatal suture to the application of tensile forces in young and old animals, through an examination of the osteoblastic staining pattern for cAMP and cGMP. The midpalatal suture was rapidly expanded for 0, 10, and 15 days, respectively, in three young and three old cats. Fresh, frozen, unfixed, undecalcified maxillae were sectioned transversely and stained immunohistochemically for cAMP and cGMP. The staining intensity for both nucleotides was increased in the osteoblasts of the young treated animals, while in the old animals the osteoblasts were only faintly stained for cAMP and cGMP. These results demonstrate that bone cells of old animals are less responsive to tensile forces than the corresponding cells in young animals.