The aim of this study was to evaluate the value of the urinary excretion of the pyridinium crosslinks, pyridinoline (Pyr) and deoxypyridinoline (D-Pyr), as markers of bone resorption in the rat. The excretion of the crosslinks was compared with that of urinary [3H]tetracycline ([3H]TC) excretion from chronically [3H]TC-prelabeled animals, a technique established to monitor bone resorption in the rat. Bone resorption was modulated by Ca restriction, infusion of PTH, thyroparathyroidectomy, and administration of different bisphosphonates. Furthermore, the urinary crosslinks were assessed in three different osteopetrotic mutations in the rat. We found a delayed response of Pyr and D-Pyr excretion to acute changes in bone resorption compared with [3H]TC excretion. This delay was 1 day after Ca restriction and longer after other treatments, such as PTH administration or bisphosphonate treatment, with which it was more than 3 weeks. In contrast, chronic states with stimulation or inhibition of bone resorption showed similar changes in excretion of the urinary crosslinks and [3H]TC, except after PTH administration. The excretion of the crosslinks was greatly reduced in osteopetrotic rats (op/op, tl/tl, and ia/ia) and increased to normal levels in tl/tl rats after stimulation of bone resorption by M-CSF administration. These results suggest that, in rats, urinary excretion of the pyridinium crosslinks reflects bone resorption in chronic but not always in acute conditions. The cause of this discrepancy is still unclear.