Parathyroid hormone (PTH) activates PTH/PTH-related peptide-related receptors (PTHRs) to stimulate both adenylyl cyclase (AC) and phospholipase C (PLC). How these parallel signals mediate specific cellular and tissue responses to PTH, such as the complex anabolic versus catabolic actions of PTH on bone, remains unsettled. Previous studies of PTHR signaling and function employed mainly rodent or other cell lines that express endogenous PTHRs and, possibly, alternate species of PTH receptors. To preclude confounding effects of such receptors, we stably expressed recombinant human PTHRs (hPTHRs) at different levels of surface density in LLC-PK1 porcine renal epithelial cells that lack endogenous PTH responsiveness. hPTH(1-34) induced concentration-dependent activation of both AC and PLC via transfected hPTHRs. Maximal intensity of each signal increased with receptor density, but more hPTHRs were required for PLC than for AC activation. Coupling to AC was saturated at receptor densities too low to detect sustained PLC activation. hPTH(3-34), found by others to be a PLC/protein kinase C (PKC)-selective peptide in rat cells, did not activate PLC via human (or rat) PTHRs under conditions (1 microM peptide, 106 hPTHRs/cell) where hPTH(1-34) stimulated PLC severalfold. Other cellular responses that require PKC activation in these cells, such as sodium-dependent phosphate transport and cAMP-independent secretion of plasminogen activator, were induced by PTH(1-34) but not by hPTH(3-34) or hPTH(7-34). We conclude that amino-truncated PTH analogs reported to activate PKC cannot directly activate phosphatidylinositol-specific PLC via the human or rat PTHR and therefore that PTH receptors may access alternate, PLC-independent pathways of PKC activation in some target cells. The relative intensity of AC and PLC signaling via the hPTHR may be strongly regulated by changes in its surface expression.