A decrease in plasma Ca2+ and increases in plasma immunoreactive parathyroid hormone (PTH) have been reported in spontaneously hypertensive (SH) rats as compared with normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKy) rats. These changes should lead to a higher plasma 1,25(OH)2D (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol/1,25-dihydroxyergocalciferol) concentration in SH rat if the kidney responds appropriately. Plasma 1,25(OH)2D, however, has been reported to be normal in SH rats, suggesting possible impairments of vitamin D metabolism in this animal model of hypertension. To test this possibility, we studied the effect of PTH on renal production of 1,25(OH)2D in SH rats before (4 weeks of age) and after (12 weeks of age) the onset of hypertension. Basal serum levels of 1,25(OH)2D were normal in SH rats at both ages. At 4 weeks of age, the rise in serum 1,25(OH)2D after PTH injection (50 units subcutaneously every 2 h; four times) was also normal in SH rats. By contrast, at 12 weeks of age, the rise in serum 1,25(OH)2D was approximately one-half of that in WKy rats, despite the similar rises in serum Ca2+ levels in both groups by PTH injection. The attenuated rise in serum 1,25(OH)2D in SH rats was consistent with the impaired response of renal 1-hydroxylase (25-hydroxycholecalciferol 1 alpha-hydroxylase) activity to PTH. Basal 1,25(OH)2D production by the kidney in SH rat was higher than that in WKy rats both at 4 and 12 weeks of age. These data suggest that, in SH rats: serum 1,25(OH)2D is inappropriately low in relation to the elevated PTH and this may be due, at least in part, to the impaired responsiveness to PTH of renal 1-hydroxylase and to the enhanced metabolism of 1,25(OH)2D, and elevated PTH or other agents may stimulate the 1-hydroxylase in the kidney even before the onset of hypertension.

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