AIMS: To present experimental evidence in support of a proposed common cause for absorptive hypercalciuria, renal hypercalciuria, renal phosphate leak and enhancement of 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D concentrations in patients presenting with renal stone disease; and to suggest further investigation with a view to new management. METHODS: An oral calcium loading test was administered to 15 patients with renal stones and 10 normal controls in the fasting state: urine and blood were collected hourly. After the second urine sample, 400 mg calcium dissolved in water was administered orally. Serum calcium, albumin, parathyroid hormone (PTH), and phosphate were measured together with urine calcium clearance and urinary phosphate from which the TmPO4/glomerular filtration rate (GFR) ratio was calculated. Serum 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D was measured in the first serum sample. In addition, 24 hour urine calcium results were collected retrospectively from the patients' case notes over the previous 18 months. RESULTS: In the basal state, renal stone patients had an overall greater phosphaturia (lower TmPO4/GFR: median 1.72 compared with 2.10 in controls) and increased calcium clearance. Serum corrected calcium and PTH concentrations did not differ between the groups. After calcium loading, serum calcium and urine calcium clearance rose in both groups, with patients with renal stones experiencing a greater percentage fall in phosphaturia. In both groups TmPO4/GFR fell (greater phosphaturia) with increased serum corrected calcium, with the patients showing notably greater phosphaturia for any given calcium concentration. Patients also had notably greater phosphaturia compared with the serum calcium concentration for any given PTH value. Serum 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D was higher in patients than controls and for any 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D concentration phosphaturia measured against serum calcium was greater in patients than controls. 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D did not correlate with phosphaturia relative to serum calcium concentrations within the patient and control groups. CONCLUSIONS: It is proposed that patients with idiopathic hypercalciuria have an "inappropriately' high phosphate excretion for any given serum calcium concentration. Loss of phosphate may induce increased activation of 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D. Some of the commonly described causes of stone formation may be manifestations of a single mechanism.