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Endocr Rev. 1981 Summer;2(3):264-74.

Vitamin D and pregnancy: the maternal-fetal metabolism of vitamin D.


A model of the maternal-fetal metabolism of vitamin D3 is depicted in Fig. 2. 25-OHD3 of maternal origin is metabolized by the maternal kidneys to the potent metabolite, 1,25-(OH)2D3, which acts on the maternal intestine, kidneys, and skeleton. The maternal kidneys and other organs can produce 24,25-(OH)2D3, although this pathway may be suppressed near the end of gestation. The placenta has selective permeability to the vitamin D3 metabolites, with 25-OHD3 crossing from the mother to the fetus more readily than the dihydroxylated metabolites. The onset of the placental synthesis of 1,25-(OH)2D3 during gestation is unknown. Likewise the regulation of the placental 25-OHD3-1 alpha-hydroxylase is unknown. 1,25-(OH)2D3 of placental origin may enter the maternal or the fetal circulation or act locally on the placenta by inducing the synthesis of proteins involved in the cellular transport of Ca. Perhaps one placenta cell type synthesizes 1,25-(OH)2D3 and another cell type possessing a cytoplasmic receptor for 1,25-(OH)2D3 responds to this metabolite. The function of the 24,25-(OH)2D3 produced by the placenta is unknown. The concentration of free 25-OHD3 and free 1,25-(OH)2D3 in the fetal circulation exceeds the maternal levels due to the differences in the DBP concentrations of the two bloodstreams. The 1,25-(OH)2D3 in the fetal bloodstream may originate from either the placenta or the fetal kidneys. The latter site may not be active in utero due to the hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia relative to the maternal levels of these ions. 1,25-(OH)2D3 in the fetal bloodstream acts on those fetal tissues containing cytoplasmic receptors for this metabolite. The intestinal mucosa apparently lacks these receptors until sometime during neonatal life. In contrast, fetal bone cells possess receptors for the 1,25-(OH)2D3. The 24,25-(OH)2D3 in the fetal bloodstream may also be involved in the growth and differentiation of the fetal skeleton. However, the precise role of both metabolites in the fetus remains conjectural.

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