We identified the parathyroid type Ca(2+)-sensing receptor (CaR) in normal human colon mucosa and in cancerous lesions at the mRNA and protein level. Polymerase chain reaction produced an amplification product from reverse-transcribed large intestinal RNA which corresponded in size and length to a 537-bp sequence from exon 7 of the CaR gene. With a specific antiserum against its extracellular domain, the CaR could be detected by immunostaining in normal human colon mucosa in cells preferentially located at the crypt base. The CaR protein was also expressed in tumors of the large bowel in all 20 patients examined. However, the great majority of CaR-positive cells in the adenocarcinomas inspected were confined to more differentiated areas exhibiting glandular-tubular structures. Poorly or undifferentiated regions were either devoid of specific immunoreactivity or contained only isolated CaR-positive cells. In the normal mucosa and in glandular-tubular structures of cancerous lesions, the CaR was exclusively expressed in chromogranin A-positive enteroendocrine cells and in only a small fraction of PCNA-positive cells.