The divalent mineral cations Ca2+ and Mg2+ play many and diverse roles both in the function of cells and in extracellular processes. The metabolism of these cations is a complex process involving the coordinated function of several organ systems and endocrine glands. A recently cloned G-protein-coupled receptor responds to extracellular calcium concentration (Ca2+0-sensing receptor, CaSR) and mediates several of the known effects of Ca2+0 on parathyroid and renal function. The CaSR, which is also expressed in a number of other tissues including thyroidal C-cells, brain and gastrointestinal tract, may function as a Ca2+0 sensor in these tissues as well. Thus, Ca2+0 is a first messenger (or hormone) which, via CaSR-mediated activation of second messenger systems (e.g. phospholipases C and A2, cyclic AMP) leads to altered function of these cells. Several mutations in the human CaSR gene have been identified and shown to cause three inherited diseases of calcium homeostasis, clearly implicating the CaSR as an important component of the homeostatic mechanism for divalent mineral ions. Ca2+ and Mg2+ losses from the body are regulated by altering the urinary excretion of these divalent cations. The localization of the CaSR transcripts and protein in the kidney not only provides a basis for a direct Ca2+0 (or Mg2+0)-mediated regulation of Ca2+ (and Mg2+) excretion but also suggests a functional link between divalent mineral and water metabolism. In the kidney, the thick ascending limb of Henle (TAL) plays crucial roles in regulating both divalent mineral reabsorption and urine concentration. Recent studies have suggested models whereby extracellular Ca2+, via the CaSR expressed in the TAL as well as in the collecting duct system, modulates both Ca2+ 0 and Mg2+ 0 as well as water reabsorbtion. When taken together, these studies suggest that the CaSR not only provides the primary mechanism for Ca2+ 0-mediated regulation of parathyroid hormone secretion from parathyroid glands but also for direct modulation of renal divalent mineral excretion and urinary concentrating ability. These latter functions may furnish a mechanism for integrating and balancing water and divalent cation losses that minimizes the risk of urinary tract stone formation. This mechanism can explain hypercalcemia-mediated polyuria (diabetes insipidus).

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