Mineral, hormonal and skeletal changes were determined in vitamin D-deficient (−D) and vitamin Dreplete (+D) mother rats and in their litters on day 20 of lactation. These results were compared with those obtained in −D mothers and pups, after giving the mothers an oral supplement (10 i.u. vitamin D3/day) during the period of lactation (20 days). Compared to +D animals, both −D lactating mothers and their pups exhibited extremely low plasma levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25-OH-D3), diminished 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3) and increased levels of immunoreactive parathyroid hormone (iPTH). Vitamin D-deficient mothers also had higher levels of calcitonin and lower levels of prolactin than +D mothers. All − D animals (mothers and pups) showed increased osteoclastic bone resorption and severe osteomalacia as shown by decreased bone ash, decreased calcification rate and increased endosteal osteoid surface, volume and thickness. In mothers treated with vitamin D3 during lactation, nearly all the plasma variables measured, as well as bone histomorphometric features, were normal. In contrast, their pups still showed rickets and osteomalacia, despite normal levels of 25-OH-D3 and calcium in the plasma. These pups had raised plasma levels of 1,25(OH)2D3 and iPTH associated with persistent stimulation of bone resorption. This study showed that (1) severe vitamin D deficiency in lactating rats produced marked osteomalacia and secondary hyperparathyroidism in both mothers and pups, and (2) vitamin D treatment of − D mother rats during lactation (10 i.u. vitamin D3/day) reversed the mineral, hormonal and skeletal abnormalities in mothers but not in pups.
J. Endocr. (1985) 105, 303–309