The cloning of the so-called 'parathyroid hormone-related protein' (PTHrP) in 1987 was the result of a long quest for the factor which, by mimicking the actions of PTH in bone and kidney, is responsible for the hypercalcemic paraneoplastic syndrome, humoral calcemia of malignancy. PTHrP is distinct from PTH in a number of ways. First, PTHrP is the product of a separate gene. Second, with the exception of a short N-terminal region, the structure of PTHrP is not closely related to that of PTH. Third, in contrast to PTH, PTHrP is a paracrine factor expressed throughout the body. Finally, most of the functions of PTHrP have nothing in common with those of PTH. PTHrP is a poly-hormone which comprises a family of distinct peptide hormones arising from post-translational endoproteolytic cleavage of the initial PTHrP translation products. Mature N-terminal, mid-region and C-terminal secretory forms of PTHrP are thus generated, each of them having their own physiologic functions and probably their own receptors. The type 1 PTHrP receptor, binding both PTH(1-34) and PTHrP(1-36), is the only cloned receptor so far. PTHrP is a PTH-like calciotropic hormone, a myorelaxant, a growth factor and a developmental regulatory molecule. The present review reports recent aspects of PTHrP pharmacology and physiology, including: (a) the identification of new peptides and receptors of the PTH/PTHrP system; (b) the recently discovered nuclear functions of PTHrP and the role of PTHrP as an intracrine regulator of cell growth and cell death; (c) the physiological and developmental actions of PTHrP in the cardiovascular and the renal glomerulo-vascular systems; (d) the role of PTHrP as a regulator of pancreatic beta cell growth and functions, and, (e) the interactions of PTHrP and calcium-sensing receptors for the control of the growth of placental trophoblasts. These new advances have contributed to a better understanding of the pathophysiological role of PTHrP, and will help to identify its therapeutic potential in a number of diseases.