Effect of prenatal vitamin D (calcitriol) exposure on the growth and development of the prostate

Prostate. 1999 Nov 1;41(3):181-9. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0045(19991101)41:3<181::aid-pros5>3.0.co;2-7.


Background: We previously found that in the absence of testosterone (T), calcitriol promotes proliferation of normal prostatic stroma, while in the presence of T, it has a differentiating effect on prostatic epithelium. The present study was conducted to determine the effect of calcitriol exposure in utero on the postnatal development of the normal prostate.

Methods: Pregnant rats were injected subcutaneously with either 1.25 microg of calcitriol or vehicle alone on alternate days till delivery. Calcitriol-exposed and control pups were sacrificed at age 25 days (prepuberty), 63 days (postpuberty), or 102 days (adults), and their prostates and seminal vesicles were harvested and weighed.

Results: Pups prenatally exposed to calcitriol and sacrificed before puberty (25 days) had a 35% greater mean prostatic weight than controls (0.0314 vs. 0.0422 g, P < 0.007), and calcitriol-exposed adult rats (102 days) had a 68% greater mean prostatic weight than controls (0.1365 vs. 0.2304 g, P < 0.005). No differences were observed in seminal vesicle weights, and in serum calcium and testosterone levels. A disproportionately high mortality rate from sudden death (71%) was observed at puberty in uncastrated male rats prenatally exposed to calcitriol.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that high-dose calcitriol exposure in utero may uniquely influence subsequent prostatic growth. Nonandrogenic steroids such as calcitriol may also be involved in genetic imprinting of the prostate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Diet
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Prostate / drug effects
  • Prostate / growth & development*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology*


  • Vitamin D