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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Apr 11;92(8):3124-6.

Evolutionary importance for the membrane enhancement of the production of vitamin D3 in the skin of poikilothermic animals.

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Department of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, MA 02118, USA.


The photoproduction of vitamin D in the skin was essential for the evolutionary development of terrestrial vertebrates. During exposure to sunlight, previtamin D3 formed in the skin is isomerized to vitamin D3 (calciol) by a temperature-dependent process. Since early land vertebrates were poikilothermic, the relatively slow conversion of previtamin D3 to vitamin D3 at ambient temperature put them at serious risk for developing vitamin D deficiency, thus leading to a poorly mineralized skeleton that could have ultimately halted further evolutionary development of vertebrates on land. We evaluated the rate of isomerization of previtamin D3 to vitamin D3 in the skin of iguanas and found the isomerization rate was enhanced by 1100% and 1700% at 25 degrees C and 5 degrees C, respectively. It is likely that the membrane entrapment of previtamin D3 in its s-cis,s-cis conformation is responsible for the markedly enhanced conversion of previtamin D3 to vitamin D3. The membrane-enhanced production of vitamin D3 ensures the critical supply of vitamin D3 to poikilothermic animals such as iguanas.

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