Prostaglandin synthesis by fetal rat bones was examined by thin-layer chromatography of culture media after preincubation with labeled arachidonic acid. Cultures in rabbit complement (non-heat inactivated serum) were compared with cultures in heat-inactivated serum or cultures treated with indomethacin. The major complement-dependent products were PGE2, PGF2 alpha and 6-keto-PGF1 alpha, the metabolite of prostacyclin (PGI2). Since PGI2 had not been previously identified in bone its ability to stimulate bone resorption was tested. Repeated addition of PGI2 stimulated release of previously incorporated 45Ca from fetal rat long bones in both short-term and long-term cultures at concentrations of 10(-5) to 10(-9)M. Because of the short half life of PGI2 in solution at neutral pH, we tested a sulfur analog, thiaprostacyclin (S-PGI2) which was found to be a stimulator of bone resorption at concentrations of 10(-5) to 10(-6)M. These studies suggest that endogenous PGI2 production may play a role in bone metabolism. Since vessels produce PGI2 it is possible that PGI2 release may be responsible for the frequent association between vascular invasion and resorption of bone or calcified cartilage in physiologic remodeling and pathologic osteolysis.