Idiopathic hypercalciuria (IH) is a heterogeneous disorder frequently observed in patients with nephrolithiasis. At one extreme of its clinical spectrum is fasting hypercalciuria (FH), a condition characterized by increased bone resorption and turnover. In previous studies we have shown that monocytes from patients with high turnover osteoporosis and from women in early postmenopause elaborate increased amounts of interleukin-1 (IL-1), a cytokine that stimulates bone resorption in vitro and in vivo. Since IL-1 could also mediate the resorptive mechanism of FH and cause a clinically significant bone loss, we have studied the relationship of IH, vertebral mineral density, bone turnover, and monocyte IL-1 activity in 47 patients with absorptive hypercalciuria (AH), 23 with FH, and 38 nonhypercalciuric subjects with recurrent nephrolithiasis (controls). Vertebral mineral density, as measured by quantitative computer tomography, was decreased in each of the three patient groups, but was significantly lower in FH patients than in AH patients or control subjects. Twenty-four-hour total urinary hydroxyproline excretion was increased in FH patients compared to that in AH patients or controls, but blood levels of osteocalcin were not. Monocytes from FH subjects yielded significantly more IL-1 (α + β) activity than those from AH patients or controls; levels of IL-1 activity in monocytes of AH and control patients were similar. In IH subjects, significant correlations were found between IL-1 and hydroxyproline (r = 0.70; P < 0.0001), IL-1 and quantitative computer tomography values (r = ′0.49; P < 0.005), and IL-1 and urinary calcium (r = ′0.36; P < 0.05). Serum PTH levels were within normal limits in all subjects and were similar in the three study groups. 1, 25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 levels, although higher in IH patients than in controls, were not significantly different in FH and AH subjects. Increased IL-1 activity and decreased vertebral mineral density are features of a subset of patients with IH. Although a cause-effect relationship remains to be established, increased monocytic IL-1 activity, rather than elevated PTH or 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 levels, could underlie the resorptive component of FH.