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J Physiol. 2011 Oct 1;589(Pt 19):4777-86. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.214726. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with impaired vascular endothelial and smooth muscle function and hypertension in young rats.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia.


Increasing evidence links vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular dysfunction in human adults. There is a worldwide increase in the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in women of reproductive age, particularly dark-skinned and/or veiled women and their infants. We used a rat model to determine the functional impact of vitamin D deficiency during intra uterine and early life on resistance artery reactivity and blood pressure in the offspring as young adults. Rat dams were maintained on vitamin D deficient or replete chow before and during pregnancy and lactation. The offspring were maintained on the same chow until studied at 7-8 weeks of age. Conscious blood pressure was measured. Endothelial and smooth muscle function were tested in mesenteric arteries on a pressure myograph. Vitamin D deficient male and female offspring had a 10-fold lower serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (P < 0.0001) and markedly elevated blood pressures (11-20 mmHg, P < 0.001) and heart rates (21-40 beats min(-1), P < 0.02) than control fed offspring. Serum calcium was unchanged. Mesenteric artery myogenic tone was doubled in vitamin D deficiency. Endothelium-derived nitric oxide-evoked dilation was halved in arteries from vitamin D deficient males and dioestrous females. Dilation attributed to endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor was all but abolished in vitamin D deficient oestrous females. Nitroprusside-evoked dilation was unaltered in arteries from males, but was markedly reduced in vessels of vitamin D deplete females. In conclusion, early life vitamin D deficiency is associated with endothelial vasodilator dysfunction, and this is likely to contribute to the accompanying elevation in blood pressure and an increased cardiovascular disease risk.

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