Parathyroid glands in animals consist of a single basic type of secretory cell concerned with the elaboration of one hormone. Parathyroid hormone is the principal hormone involved in the minute-to-minute fine regulation of blood calcium in mammals. A larger biosynthetic precursor of parathyroid hormone is first synthesized on ribosomes of the endoplasmic reticulum in chief cells. Pre-proparathyroid hormone is rapidly converted to proparathyroid hormone in the Golgi apparatus. Active parathyroid hormone is packaged into membrane-limited secretory granules that are stored in the cytoplasm until secretion is stimulated. Parathyroid cells in most animals store relatively small amounts of preformed hormone but are capable of responding to minor fluctuations in calcium ion concentration by rapidly altering the rate of hormonal synthesis and secretion. Recently synthesized and processed active parathyroid hormone may be released directly in response to increased demand and bypass the storage pool of mature secretory granules. Relatively few chemicals or experimental manipulations significantly increase the incidence of parathyroid tumors. Irradiation increases the development of parathyroid adenomas in rats and the incidence is modified by feeding diets with variable amounts of vitamin D. Parathyroid adenomas have been encountered infrequently following the administration of a variety of chemicals in 2-year bioassay studies in Fischer rats; however, the incidence increases dramatically when comparing 2-year studies to lifetime data.