The role of abnormal phosphorus metabolism in the progression of renal disease and metastatic calcification. Hyperphosphatemia is a common biochemical abnormality in advanced renal failure. The resulting increase serum calcium x phosphorus product results in the deposition of hydroxyapatite crystals. The crystalline properties of these deposits incite an inflammatory response manifested by encapsulated tumoral deposits around joints, acute inflammatory arthritis, and irritative conjunctivitis. These deposits occur in association with marked elevation of serum phosphorus levels, and are prevented and eradicated by normalizing serum phosphorus levels. The calcium-phosphate deposits which occur in heart and lungs are nonapatitic. These deposits were never clearly related to hyperphosphatemia. They are mainly of historic interest because currently they are rarely seen. Their eradication appears to be more of a result of improved dialytic techniques than correction of serum phosphorus levels. The presence, persistence, and progression of vascular calcification are more closely related to patient age and duration of dialysis than hyperphosphatemia. This suggests that these deposits are a result of dystrophic calcification occurring de novo in a diseased or damaged vessel wall. Phosphorous restriction has also been shown to be protective of renal functional deterioration in experimental renal disease. It is unclear whether the protective effect is mediated through phosphate restriction or phosphate depletion. In conclusion, control of serum phosphorus levels in dialyzed uremic patients has clearly decreased morbidity associated with periarticular, articular, and conjunctiva hydroxyapatite deposits. In contrast, phosphorous control has had little effect on the presence or severity of vascular calcification.