In chronic uremia, the requirement of supraphysiological doses of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 [25(OH)D3] for the normalization of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D3] levels has been attributed to impaired substrate availability to renal 1 alpha-hydroxylase. Because serum 1,25(OH)2D3 can also be corrected by 25(OH)D3 supplementation in bilaterally nephrectomized patients, we examined the role of substrate availability on 1,25(OH)2D3 production by peripheral blood monocytes (PBM). In hemodialysis patients (HP), 25(OH)D3 uptake was 50% lower than normal, and the maximal velocity (Vmax) and apparent Michaelis constant (Km) for 25(OH)D3 of 1 alpha-hydroxylase were 2.7- and 4-fold above normal, respectively. When serum 1,25(OH)2D3 of HP was corrected by intravenous 1,25(OH)2D3, 25(OH)D3 uptake, Km, and Vmax returned to normal values. The effect of 25(OH)D3 supplementation was also examined. In normal adults, 25(OH)D3 administration had no effect on serum 1,25(OH)2D3 levels nor on the Km or the Vmax of PBM 1 alpha-hydroxylase but caused a 11-fold increase in serum 24R,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3[24R, 25(OH)2D3]. In HP, 25(OH)D3 therapy raised serum 1,25(OH)2D3 and reduced the Km and Vmax of PBM 1 alpha-hydroxylase, which correlated negatively with serum 1,25(OH)2D3. However, serum 24R,25(OH)2D3 only increased slightly above basal. These results demonstrate that, in HP, 1) impaired uptake of 25(OH)D3 and low affinity for substrate determine the need for high 25(OH)D3 levels to normalize serum 1,25(OH)2D3, despite higher enzymatic activity; 2) 1,25(OH)2D3 deficiency plays a role in enhanced 1,25(OH)2D3 synthesis and impaired access of 25(OH)D3 to PBM 1 alpha hydroxylase; and 3) abnormal 25(OH)D3 delivery also affects 24-hydroxylation.