In 8 adolescents with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), basal PTH concentrations measured with a novel immunoradiometric assay (IRMA) (Scantibodies Laboratory, Inc.; S-IRMA) were invariably lower than those estimated with an established assay (Nichols Institute; N-IRMA) (263 +/- 228 versus 645 +/- 442 pg/ml, respectively; p<0.00001). During in vivo dynamic testing, set points for calcium-regulated PTH release were indistinguishable for both IRMAs (1.21 +/- 0.05 versus 1.22 +/- 0.06). However, maximal PTH concentrations were significantly lower when measured by S-IRMA then by N-IRMA (557 +/- 448 and 1114 +/- 606 pg/ml, respectively); minimum PTH concentrations were 41 +/- 65 pg/ml (5.0 +/- 4.2% of maximum) and 189 +/- 137 pg/ml (13.6 +/- 7.2% of maximum), respectively. Correlation between PTH and blood ionized calcium indicated that PTH measured by S-IRMA decreased more readily than the concentrations determined by N-IRMA. The N-IRMA showed indistinguishable cross-reactivity with hPTH(1-84) and hPTH(7-84), while the S-IRMA detected only the full-length peptide. Furthermore, the radiolabeled detection antibody of the N-IRMA interacted equivalently with hPTH(1-34) and hPTH(2-34), while the S-IRMA showed crossreactivity only with hPTH(1-34). These differences in assay specificity could explain the observed differences in ESRD, and suggest that PTH concentrations estimated by the S-IRMA reflect more accurately the amount of biologically active PTH in the circulation. Since low concentrations of PTH are frequently associated with adynamic bone disease, our findings may have significant implications for the treatment of renal osteodystrophy with calcium and/or biologically active vitamin D analogs.