In cattle, the kidney has been the only known site for production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25(OH)(2)D(3)] from 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3) [25(OH)D(3)] by 1alpha-hydroxylase (1alpha-OHase). Based on human studies, it was hypothesized that bovine monocytes could produce 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) upon activation and 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) would regulate expression of vitamin D-responsive genes in monocytes. First, the effects of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) on bovine monocytes isolated from peripheral blood were tested. Treatment of nonstimulated monocytes with 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) increased expression of the gene for the vitamin D 24-hydroxylase (24-OHase) enzyme by 51+/-13 fold, but 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) induction of 24-OHase expression was blocked by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation. In addition, 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) increased the gene expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase and the chemokine RANTES (regulated upon activation, normal T-cell expressed and secreted) in LPS-stimulated monocytes 69+/-13 and 40+/-12 fold, respectively. Next, the ability of bovine monocytes to express 1alpha-OHase and produce 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) was tested. Activation of monocytes with LPS, tripalmitoylated lipopeptide (Pam3CSK4), or peptidoglycan caused 43+/-9, 17+/-3, and 19+/-3 fold increases in 1alpha-OHase gene expression, respectively. Addition of 25(OH)D(3) to LPS-stimulated monocytes enhanced expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase and RANTES and nitric oxide production in a dose-dependent manner, giving evidence that activated monocytes convert 25(OH)D(3) to 1,25(OH)(2)D(3). In conclusion, bovine monocytes produce 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) in response to toll-like receptor signaling, and 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) production in monocytes increased the expression of genes involved in the innate immune system. Vitamin D status of cattle might be important for optimal innate immune function because 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) production in activated monocytes and subsequent upregulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase and RANTES expression was dependent on 25(OH)D(3) availability.