Extracellular phosphate regulates its own renal excretion by eliciting concentration-dependent secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH). However, the phosphate-sensing mechanism remains unknown and requires elucidation for understanding the aetiology of secondary hyperparathyroidism in chronic kidney disease (CKD). The calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) is the main controller of PTH secretion and here we show that raising phosphate concentration within the pathophysiologic range for CKD significantly inhibits CaSR activity via non-competitive antagonism. Mutation of residue R62 in anion binding site-1 abolishes phosphate-induced inhibition of CaSR. Further, pathophysiologic phosphate concentrations elicit rapid and reversible increases in PTH secretion from freshly-isolated human parathyroid cells consistent with a receptor-mediated action. The same effect is seen in wild-type murine parathyroid glands, but not in CaSR knockout glands. By sensing moderate changes in extracellular phosphate concentration, the CaSR represents a phosphate sensor in the parathyroid gland, explaining the stimulatory effect of phosphate on PTH secretion.