The Ca(2+) receptor on the surface of parathyroid cells is the primary molecular entity regulating secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH). Because of this, it is a particularly appealing target for new drugs intended to increase or decrease circulating levels of PTH. Calcilytic compounds are Ca(2+) receptor antagonists which increase the secretion of PTH. The first reported calcilytic compound was NPS 2143, an orally active molecule which elicits rapid, 3- to 4-fold increases in circulating levels of PTH. These rapid changes in plasma PTH levels are sufficient to increase bone turnover in ovariectomized, osteopenic rats. When administered together with an antiresorptive agent (estradiol), NPS 2143 causes an increase in trabecular bone volume and bone mineral density in osteopenic rats. The magnitude of these changes are far in excess of those caused by estradiol alone and are comparable with those achieved by daily administration of PTH or a peptide analog. These anabolic effects of NPS 2143 on bone are not associated with hyperplasia of the parathyroid glands. Calcilytic compounds can increase endogenous levels of circulating PTH to an extent that stimulates new bone formation. Such compounds could replace the use of exogenous PTH or its peptide fragments in treating osteoporosis.
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