| Parathyroid hormone/parathyroid hormone-related protein receptor (PTH/PTHrP type 1 receptor; commonly known as PTHR1) is a family B G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that regulates skeletal development, bone turnover and mineral ion homeostasis. PTHR1 transduces stimuli from PTH and PTHrP into the interior of target cells to promote diverse biochemical responses. Evaluation of the signalling properties of structurally modified PTHR1 ligands has helped to elucidate determinants of receptor function and mechanisms of downstream cellular and physiological responses. Analysis of PTHR1 responses induced by structurally modified ligands suggests that PTHR1 can continue to signal through a G-protein-mediated pathway within endosomes. Such findings challenge the longstanding paradigm in GPCR biology that the receptor is transiently activated at the cell membrane, followed by rapid deactivation and receptor internalization. Evaluation of structurally modified PTHR1 ligands has further led to the identification of ligand analogues that differ from PTH or PTHrP in the type, strength and duration of responses induced at the receptor, cellular and organism levels. These modified ligands, and the biochemical principles revealed through their use, might facilitate an improved understanding of PTHR1 function in vivo and enable the treatment of disorders resulting from defects in PTHR1 signalling. This Review discusses current understanding of PTHR1 modes of action and how these findings might be applied in future therapeutic agents.