Modulation of angiogenesis is now a recognized strategy for the prevention and treatment of pathologies categorized by their reliance on a vascular supply. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of 1 alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1, 25(OH)(2)D(3)], the active metabolite of vitamin D(3), on angiogenesis by using well-characterized in vitro and in vivo model systems. 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) (1 x 10(-9) to 1 x 10(-7) mol/L) significantly inhibited vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-induced endothelial cell sprouting and elongation in vitro in a dose-dependent manner and had a small, but significant, inhibitory effect on VEGF-induced endothelial cell proliferation. 1, 25(OH)(2)D(3) also inhibited the formation of networks of elongated endothelial cells within 3D collagen gels. The addition of 1, 25(OH)(2)D(3) to endothelial cell cultures containing sprouting elongated cells induced the regression of these cells, in the absence of any effect on cells present in the cobblestone monolayer. Analysis of nuclear morphology, DNA integrity, and enzymatic in situ labeling of apoptosis-induced strand breaks demonstrated that this regression was due to the induction of apoptosis specifically within the sprouting cell population. The effect of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) on angiogenesis in vivo was investigated by using a model in which MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells, which had been induced to overexpress VEGF, were xenografted subcutaneously together with MDA-435S breast carcinoma cells into nude mice. Treatment with 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) (12.5 pmol/d for 8 weeks) produced tumors that were less well vascularized than tumors formed in mice treated with vehicle alone. These results highlight the potential use of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) in both the prevention and regression of conditions characterized by pathological angiogenesis.