We have previously demonstrated that while both normal humans and dogs tightly control serum calcitriol levels after 25(OH)D administration, anephric humans and 5/6 nephrectomized dogs significantly increase circulating 1,25(OH)2D when supraphysiological concentrations of 25(OH)D are reached in serum. Plasma 1,25(OH)2D level is determined not only by its rate of production but also by its rate of degradation. To further characterize the mechanisms involved in the responses to 25(OH)D therapy in normal circumstances and in chronic uremia, we measured metabolic clearance rate (MCR) and production rate (PR) of 1,25(OH)2D in normal dogs and in dogs with moderate and severe renal failure, at normal and supraphysiological serum concentrations of 25(OH)D. Basal MCR in uremic dogs, either with moderate or with severe renal failure, did not differ significantly from normals (6.7 +/- 0.7, 6.8 +/- 0.4 and 6.8 +/- 0.3 ml/min, respectively). Oral 25(OH)D administration for two weeks did not affect MCR either in normal animals or in both groups of uremic dogs. 25(OH)D treatment did not affect production rates in normal dogs and in animals with moderate renal failure (with normal basal values of 1,25(OH)2D), but significantly increased 1,25(OH)2D production from 0.13 +/- 0.01 to 0.25 +/- 0.04 micrograms/day (P less than 0.05) in dogs with severe renal insufficiency. These data suggest that it is the basal level of 1,25(OH)2D which regulates the synthesis of 1,25(OH)2D in response to 25(OH)D administration in normal and uremic animals.