We have previously reported that 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2, a new analog of 1,25-(OH)2D3, suppresses parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion in uremic rats in the absence of hypercalcemia or hyperphosphatemia. In the current study, we examined the effect of 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 on parathyroid gland growth and intestinal vitamin D receptor (VDR) content. After induction of uremia by 5/6 nephrectomy, rats were divided into five experimental groups and received intraperitoneal injections of vehicle, 1,25-(OH)2D3 (2 or 6 ng/rat), or 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 (25 or 100 ng/rat) three times a week for 8 weeks. Twelve normal rats received vehicle and served as the normal control group. During the course of the study, rats were maintained on a 1.0% calcium and 0.8% phosphorus diet. The higher dose of 1,25-(OH)2D3, 6 ng, significantly decreased PTH from 52.7 +/- 10.2 pg/mL in the uremic control group to 25.7 +/- 6.7 pg/mL (P < 0.01). This dose of 1,25-(OH)2D3, however, increased serum levels of both ionized calcium (4.71 +/- 0.05 to 4.85 +/- 0.06 mg/dL; P < 0.05) and phosphorus (4.34 +/- 0.30 to 6.67 +/- 0.63 mg/dL; P < 0.01). Both doses of 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 decreased serum PTH as effectively as 1,25-(OH)2D3 without changes in serum calcium or phosphorus. The 100-ng dose of 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 decreased PTH to 20.7 +/- 3.1 pg/mL (P < 0.01) and suppressed parathyroid gland growth by more than 50%. Both doses of 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 also decreased endogenous 1,25-(OH)2D3 levels compared with uremic control rats (25 ng:30.4 +/- 2.0, P < 0.05, and 100 ng:27.9 +/- 3.2, P < 0.01, v 48.4 +/- 6.6 pg/mL). The 6-ng dose of 1,25-(OH)2D3 elevated intestinal VDR content (138.5 +/- 20.0 fmol/mg protein) compared with animals receiving both doses of 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 (25 ng:84.0 +/- 11.9, P < 0.05, and 100 ng:78.4 +/- 10.9, P < 0.01). This was probably attributable to the marked decrease in endogenous 1,25-(OH)2D3 levels caused by both doses of 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 because intestinal VDR correlated directly with serum 1,25-(OH)2D3 (r = 0.963; P = 0.008). Thus, 19-nor-1,25-(OH)2D2 appears to exert a selective action on the parathyroid glands compared with the intestine. Its low calcemic and phosphatemic properties may result from the decreased endogenous 1,25-(OH)2D3 levels that lead to a reduction in intestinal VDR. This selectivity makes this analog ideal for the treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism.