The development of deer antler follows a pattern similar to that described for mammalian endochondral ossification and has been proposed as a suitable model for studies of bone growth. We investigated seasonal changes in the plasma concentrations of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25-(OH)2D] and calcium and the activity of alkaline phosphatase in relation to the antler cycle during 1 yr in 4 captive roe deer and measured these biological parameters in 27 wild roe deer during their antler cycle. A significant elevation of 1,25-(OH)2D in peripheral plasma, with no parallel increase in the concentration of its precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D, was observed to accompany the rapid growth phase of the antler cycle in captive (P less than 0.001) and wild (P less than 0.025) deer. During the same phase there was a gradient in levels of 1,25-(OH)2D in antler vs. jugular blood (P less than 0.01). In addition, velvet cells in culture proved to have the ability to convert 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 into a more polar derivative, which was indistinguishable from true 1,25-(OH)2D3 with regard to its chromatographic properties, its UV absorbance at 254 nm, and its ability to bind to the 1,25-(OH)2D3 receptors present in chick intestinal cytosol. These in vivo and in vitro results strongly suggest that local production of 1,25-(OH)2D by the antler cells does occur in vivo and may contribute to the increase in plasma 1,25-(OH)2D during bone growth.