Familial isolated hyperparathyroidism (FIHP) can result occasionally from the incomplete expression of a syndromic form of familial hyperparathyroidism (HPT), specifically multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia, or the hyperparathyroidism-jaw tumor syndrome (HPT-JT). The cause of FIHP has not been identified in the majority of families. We investigated 32 families with FIHP to determine the frequency of occult mutation in HRPT2, the gene causing HPT-JT. All families had negative clinical testing for MEN1, hypocalciuric hypercalcemia, and HPT-JT and negative mutational screening of MEN1 and CASR, the gene for the calcium-sensing receptor. Thus, an extended effort was made to exclude each of the principal syndromic causes of FIHP. The families were characterized by young probands (42 +/- 3 yr) and occasionally unusual parathyroid histology, including four families with one case of parathyroid cancer. We had speculated that there was a high frequency of occult mutation in HRPT2 among such carefully screened kindreds. This hypothesis became testable with the recent identification of that gene. Among the 32 FIHP families, only a single one was found to have a mutation in HRPT2 (679insAG); this mutation predicts premature truncation of its gene product, parafibromin, and thus its presumed inactivation. Even accounting for families with one of the three occult syndromes and false negative biochemical or DNA testing, these results indicate that an unexpectedly large fraction of FIHP has currently unrecognized causes.