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Calcif Tissue Int. 2002 Oct;71(4):364-75. Epub 2002 Aug 29.

Vitamin D deficiency in guinea pigs: exacerbation of bone phenotype during pregnancy and disturbed fetal mineralization, with recovery by 1,25(OH)2D3 infusion or dietary calcium-phosphate supplementation.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Vitamin D (D) deficiency during human pregnancy appears to disturb fetal growth and mineralization, but fetal development is normal in D-deficient rats and vitamin D receptor gene-ablated mice. We used the guinea pig model to investigate maternal and fetal effects of D deficiency. Pregnant (Pr) and nonpregnant (NPr) animals were fed a D-replete (+D) or D-deficient diet (-D) for 8 weeks. We further studied whether the effects of a -D diet are reversed by continuous 1,25(OH)2D3 infusion (-D+1,25) and/or by a lactose-, Ca- and P-enriched D-deficient diet (-D+Ca/P). Bone analyses included histomorphometry of the proximal tibiae, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), and quantitative computed tomography (QCT) of the femora. Depletion of 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH)2D3 levels and the D-deficiency syndrome were more severe in pregnant animals. Indeed, Pr/-D but not NPr/-D guinea pigs were hypophosphatemic, and showed robust increases in growth plate width and osteoid surface and thickness; in addition, bone mineral density on DXA was lower in Pr/-D animals only, which was exclusively in cortical bone on QCT. Bone phenotype was partly normalized in Pr/-D+1,25 and Pr/-D+Ca/P animals. Compared with +D fetuses, -D fetuses had very low or undetectable 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH)2D3, were hypercalcemic and hypophosphatemic, and had lower osteocalcin levels. In addition, body weight and total body bone mineral content were 10-15% lower; histomorphometry showed hypertrophic chondrocyte zone expansion and hyperosteoidosis. 1,25(OH)2D3 levels were restored in -D+1,25 fetuses, and the phenotype was partially corrected. Similarly, the fetal +D phenotype was rescued in large part in -D+Ca/P fetuses, despite undetectable circulating 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH)2D3. We conclude that pregnancy markedly exacerbates D deficiency, and that augmenting Ca and P intake overrides the deleterious effects of D deficiency on fetal development.

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