Osteopenia is a frequent condition in preterm infants, but its pathogenesis is uncertain. In the present study, we measured longitudinal changes in the excretion of pyridinium cross-links of collagen (specific markers of bone resorption) and evaluated the relationship between collagen cross-links and other indexes of bone and renal function in preterm infants. In these infants, urinary collagen cross-links were markedly increased on day 7 and day 30 of life and at estimated full-term gestation. The values were several times higher than those of older children and almost comparable to those of healthy full-term infants. Cross-link excretion did not correlate with beta2-microglobulin (B2M) or N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase (NAG) activity (markers of renal function), indicating that cross-link excretion is not influenced directly by infantile renal function. High serum osteocalcin and low bone mineral density (BMD) in the lumbar spine were also observed at estimated full-term gestation. There was no significant correlation between collagen cross-link excretion and either serum osteocalcin or spine BMD. We conclude that a state of high bone turnover underlies the development of osteopenia in preterm infants.