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Poult Sci. 1995 Dec;74(12):1919-34.

25-hydroxycholecalciferol in poultry nutrition.

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  • 1Department of Animal Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park 20742, USA.


Vitamin D is a complex of secosteroids that must undergo metabolic alterations to reach optimal biological activity. The parent compounds 1) ergocalciferol (D2) and 2) cholecalciferol (D3) can be synthesized in the leaves of many plants or in the skin of most animals, respectively. Transport of vitamin D steroids after absorption is associated with vitamin D binding proteins (DBP). In general, the relative binding affinities of the vitamin D steroids are: 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 [25-(OH)D3] = 24,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 [24,25-(OH)2D3] = 25,26-dihydroxy vitamin D3 [25,26-(OH)2D3] > 25-hydroxy vitamin D2 (25-(OH)D2) > 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 [1,25-(OH)2D3] > vitamin D3. The DBP in poultry does not bind D2 forms effectively, and therefore poultry can not use this form of vitamin D adequately. The concentration of 25-(OH)D3 in blood seems to be well correlated with dietary vitamin D intake or exposure to ultraviolet light. The 1 alpha hydroxylase enzyme in the kidney is subject to negative feedback regulation and is critical for formation of the active metabolite 1,25-(OH)2D3. The intracellular vitamin D receptor (VDR) specifically binds 1,25-(OH)2D3 and is necessary for cellular action. Increased levels of two to three orders of magnitude are required for 25-(OH)D3 to compete with 1,25-(OH)2D3 for binding on VDR. Feeding studies with 25-(OH)D3 suggest it has nearly twice the activity of vitamin D3. Hatchability studies have shown that 25-(OH)D3 supports good fertility and hatchability, whereas hens fed only 1,25-(OH)2D3 did not have normal hatchability. Likewise, 1,25-(OH)2D3 seems to reach toxic levels at dietary concentrations only two to three times optimal dietary levels whereas feeding 25-(OH)D3 for extended periods at levels 8 to 10 times requirement seems to have no adverse effects. It seems that 25-(OH)D3 is the most active metabolite of vitamin D3, ultimately capable of supporting both cellular functions and embryonic development in chickens and turkeys when fed as the sole source of vitamin D3.

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