BACKGROUND: Over a hundred years ago, Wolff originally observed that bone growth and remodeling are exquisitely sensitive to mechanical forces acting on the skeleton. Clinical studies have noted that the size and the strength of bone increase with weight bearing and muscular activity and decrease with bed rest and disuse. Although the processes of mechanotransduction and functional response of bone to mechanical strain have been extensively studied, the molecular signaling mechanisms that mediate the response of bone cells to mechanical stimulation remain unclear. RESULTS: Here, we identify a novel germline mutation at the mouse Bone morphogenetic protein 5 (Bmp5) locus. Genetic analysis shows that the mutation occurs at a site encoding the proteolytic processing sequence of the BMP5 protein and blocks proper processing of BMP5. Anatomic studies reveal that this mutation affects the formation of multiple skeletal features including several muscle-induced skeletal sites in vivo. Biomechanical studies of osteoblasts from these anatomic sites show that the mutation inhibits the proper response of bone cells to mechanical stimulation. CONCLUSION: The results from these genetic, biochemical, and biomechanical studies suggest that BMPs are required not only for skeletal patterning during embryonic development, but also for bone response and remodeling to mechanical stimulation at specific anatomic sites in the skeleton.