Extracellular Ca2+-sensing receptors (CaRs) are the molecular basis by which specialized cells detect and respond to changes in the extracellular [Ca2+] ([Ca2+]o). CaRs belong to the family C of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Activation of CaRs triggers signaling pathways that modify numerous cell functions. Multiple ligands regulate the activation of CaRs including multivalent cations, L-amino acids, and changes in ionic strength and pH. CaRs in parathyroid cells play a central role in systemic Ca2+ homeostasis in terrestrial tetrapods. Mutations of the CaR gene in humans cause diseases in which serum and urine [Ca2+] and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels are altered. CaR homologues are also expressed in organs critical to Ca2+ transport in ancient and modern fish, suggesting that similar receptors may have long been involved in Ca2+ homeostasis in lower vertebrates before parathyroid glands developed in terrestrial vertebrates. CaR mRNA and protein are also expressed in tissues not directly involved in Ca2+ homeostasis. This implies that there may be other biological roles for CaRs. Studies of CaR-knockout mice confirm the importance of CaRs in the parathyroid gland and kidney. The functions of CaRs in tissues other than kidney and parathyroid gland, however, remain to be elucidated.