1. Normal subjects showed a highly reproducible, rapid increase in plasma adenosine 3′:5′-cyclic monophosphate (cyclic AMP) after an intravenous injection of 200 MRC units of highly purified bovine parathyroid hormone.
2. No significant increase in plasma cyclic AMP was observed after administration of bovine parathyroid hormone to patients with severe chronic renal failure.
3. Even when renal function was not impaired, some patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, who had high concentrations of endogenous parathyroid hormone, showed resistance to bovine parathyroid hormone and when this was injected intravenously it caused only a small increase in plasma cyclic AMP. This resistance was reversible since there was marked improvement in the response after parathyroidectomy, when endogenous parathyroid hormone concentration had fallen.
4. It was possible to reproduce this resistance to the hormone by intravenous infusion of bovine parathyroid hormone into normal subjects. When the hormone (1000 MRC units) was infused over 2 h, after an initial increase there was a progressive decline in plasma cyclic AMP concentration and a fall in urinary cyclic AMP excretion. The response to a standard test stimulus (200 MRC units of bovine parathyroid hormone given as a rapid intravenous injection) was examined at intervals after 1000 units of bovine parathyroid hormone had been infused. Initially, the response was severely impaired; at 4 h, partial recovery had occurred and, 24 h after the infusion, recovery of the response was complete. The resistance was therefore reversible. Infusion of the amino-terminal peptide, fragment 1–34, gave the same effect as infusion of intact hormone. Region-specific assays for the hormone were used to show that the concentration of immuno-assayable hormone remained high during the infusions.
5. The mechanism of this reversible resistance to parathyroid hormone remains to be elucidated; it seems unlikely that circulating hormone fragments could account for the prolonged impairment in the responsiveness to the intact hormone. It is possible that alteration in the formation, intracellular degradation or, perhaps, release of cyclic AMP from the cells, is the cause. Changes in the characteristics of the hormone receptor sites might also explain the phenomenon.