Plasma concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25-OHD3) and lα,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (lα,25-(OH)2D3) in growing chicks and weanling rats were measured by a new radioreceptor assay to determine the effects of varying dietary levels of vitamin D3. The plasma concentration of 25-OHD3 fell from 14.1 ng/ml in 1-day-old chicks to undetectable levels after 3 weeks on a rachitogenic diet. Circulating lα,25-(OH)2D3 hormone also decreased from 8.9 ng/100 ml to undetectable levels at 3 weeks in these chicks. Chicks receiving an optimal supplement of vitamin D3 (1.4 IU/g diet) for three to four weeks had plasma 25-OHD3 and lα,25-(OH)2D3 levels of 21–35 ng/ml and 5.1–7.5 ng/100 ml, respectively. Nutritional supplementation with a 50-fold excess of vitamin D3 (70 IU/g diet) elicited a substantial increase in plasma 25-OHD3 to 87–130 ng/ml, while plasma lα,25-(OH)2D3 was not increased. Increasing dietary calcium from 1.4 to 2.8% did not alter the circulating level of vitamin D3 metabolites in chicks fed 1.4 IU of vitamin D3/g diet. Direct measurement of the renal 25-OHD3-lα-hyclroxylase, in vitro, showed that lowering dietary calcium or exclusion of vitamin D3 stimulated the biosynthesis of lα,25-(OH)2D3, but raising calcium did not alter the enzyme activity. It is concluded that the circulating concentration of the lα,25-(OH)2D3 hormone in the chick is unaffected by abnormally high intakes of vitamin D3 or calcium, but the renal production of the hormone increases during vitamin D3 or calcium deprivation. Additional studies in rats fed a diet supplemented with either 2 or 1000 IU of vitamin D3/g verify that the circulating concentration of 25-OHD3 is markedly increased when the dietary intake of vitamin D3 is elevated. Moreover, lα,25-(OH)2D3 is not increased under these conditions, but actually falls significantly when the dietary level of vitamin D3 is raised from 2 to 1000 IU/g. These studies in both the chick and rat indicate that dietary vitamin D3 excess enhances circulating 25-OHD3 probably because the vitamin D3-25-hydroxylase enzyme is not stringently controlled. The fact that the circulating lα,25-(OH)2D3 is not concomitantly increased may reflect either decreased synthesis or increased utilization of the lα,25-(OH)2D3 sterol.
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