1. The maximum tubular reabsorption capacity for phosphate relative to glomerular filtration rate (Tm,P/GFR) was found to range from 0·8 to 1·5 mmol/l in 32 normal fasting subjects. In 14 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism and five patients with hyperparathyroidism secondary to vitamin D deficiency or malabsorption values ranged from 0·2 to 0·8 mmol/l.
2. Plasma parathyroid hormone concentrations measured by an immunoradiometric technique ranged from <0·15 to 0·9 ng/ml in the normal subjects and from 0·5 to 10 ng/ml in the patients with hyperparathyroidism. There was no correlation, however, between plasma parathyroid hormone and Tm,P/GFR in either normal or abnormal groups.
3. Plasma parathyroid hormone was lower in 11 out of 13 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism 3 or 4 weeks after tumour removal than immediately before the operation. In all cases there was a rise in Tm,P/GFR, though not all values were normalized.
4. Changes in plasma parathyroid hormone, Tm,P/GFR and plasma and urinary cyclic AMP concentrations were measured during infusion of bovine parathyroid hormone into normal fasting subjects. Phosphate reabsorption fell markedly in response to low doses of parathyroid hormone (0·5 i.u. h−1 kg−1), higher doses (4 i.u. h−1 kg−1) producing little additional change in Tm,P/GFR despite large changes in cyclic AMP excretion. At the highest doses used (8 i.u. h−1 kg−1) apparent saturation of the renal adenylate cyclase occurred. During an infusion of hormone, 0·25 i.u. h−1 kg−1 over 3 h, a fall in Tm,P/GFR was recorded at concentrations of immunoreactive parathyroid hormone within the normal range for endogeneous hormone. At such concentrations it was not possible to detect significant changes in either plasma or urine cyclic AMP.
5. It is concluded that parathyroid hormone is an important regulator of renal phosphate handling under normal physiological conditions. Such a regulatory process has been implicated in the control of vitamin D metabolism.