The Family B G protein-coupled calcitonin receptor is an important drug target. The aim of this work was to elucidate the molecular mechanism of action of small-molecule agonist ligands acting at this receptor, comparing it with the action mechanism of the receptor's natural peptide ligand. cAMP responses to four non-peptidyl ligands and calcitonin were studied in COS-1 cells expressing wild-type and chimeric calcitonin-secretin receptors. All compounds were full agonists at the calcitonin receptor with no activity at the secretin receptor. Only chimeric constructs including the calcitonin receptor amino terminus exhibited responses to any of these ligands. We progressively truncated this domain and tested constructs for cAMP responses. Although calcitonin was able to activate the calcitonin receptor fully with the first 58 residues absent, its potency was 3 orders of magnitude lower than that at the wild-type receptor. After truncation of 114 residues, there was no response to calcitonin. In contrast, small-molecule ligands were fully active at receptors having up to 149 amino-terminal residues absent. Those compounds finally became inactive after truncation of 153 residues. Deletion and/or alanine replacement of the region of the calcitonin receptor between residues 150 and 153 resulted in marked reduction in cAMP responses to these compounds, with some compound-specific differences observed, supporting a critical role for this region. Binding studies further supported distinct sites of action of small molecules relative to that of calcitonin. These findings focus attention on the potential importance of the juxtamembranous region of the amino terminus of the Family B calcitonin receptor for agonist drug action.