Toggle Health Problems and D

Neonate horses (as well as neonate humans) having low vitamin D are more likely to die. – June 2015

Vitamin D Metabolites and Their Association with Calcium, Phosphorus, and PTH Concentrations, Severity of Illness, and Mortality in Hospitalized Equine Neonates

PLOS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127684.g003
Ahmed M. Kamr1,4, Katarzyna A. Dembek1, Stephen M. Reed2, Nathan M. Slovis3, Ahmed A. Zaghawa4, Thomas J. Rosol1, Ramiro E. Toribio1 toribio.1 @osu.edu
College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America,
Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky, United States of America, 3 Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, Lexington, Kentucky, United States of America, 4 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Sadat City, Sadat City, Egypt

 Download the PDF from VitaminDWiki


Hypocalcemia is a frequent abnormality that has been associated with disease severity and outcome in hospitalized foals. However, the pathogenesis of equine neonatal hypocalcemia is poorly understood. Hypovitaminosis D in critically ill people has been linked to hypocalcemia and mortality; however, information on vitamin D metabolites and their association with clinical findings and outcome in critically ill foals is lacking. The goal of this study was to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency (hypovitaminosis D) and its association with serum calcium, phosphorus, and parathyroid hormone (PTH) concentrations, disease severity, and mortality in hospitalized newborn foals.

Methods and Results
One hundred newborn foals <72 hours old divided into hospitalized (n = 83; 59 septic, 24 sick non-septic [SNS]) and healthy (n = 17) groups were included. Blood samples were collected on admission to measure serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 [25(OH)D3], 1,25-dihydroxyvi- tamin D3 [1,25(OH) 2D3], and PTH concentrations. Data were analyzed by nonparametric methods and univariate logistic regression. The prevalence of hypovitaminosis D [defined as 25(OH)D3 <9.51 ng/mL] was 63% for hospitalized, 64% for septic, and 63% for SNS foals. Serum 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH) 2D3 concentrations were significantly lower in septic and SNS compared to healthy foals (P<0.0001; P = 0.037). Septic foals had significantly lower calcium and higher phosphorus and PTH concentrations than healthy and SNS foals (P<0.05). In hospitalized and septic foals, low 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations were associated with increased PTH but not with calcium or phosphorus concentrations. Septic foals with 25 (OH)D3 <9.51 ng/mL and 1,25(OH) 2D3 <7.09 pmol/L were more likely to die (OR=3.62; 95% CI = 1.1-12.40; OR = 5.41; 95% CI = 1.19-24.52, respectively).


In this study we showed that vitamin D deficiency was highly prevalent in hospitalized foals and that those with the lowest concentrations of 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH)2D3 had more severe disease and were more likely to die. We also demonstrated that hypocalcemia and hyperphosphatemia were frequent abnormalities; however, they were not associated with the concentrations of either metabolite of vitamin D. Of interest, serum PTH concentrations were inversely correlated with 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations. To our knowledge this is the first study investigating the clinical relevance of reduced vitamin D metabolite concentrations in hospitalized foals and their association with calcium, phosphorus, and PTH concentrations, severity of illness, and mortality. Our findings on hypovitaminosis D in hospitalized foals were similar to those reported in critically ill humans in which decreased concentrations of 25(OH)D3 have been associated with disease severity and outcome [16,251.

Mechanisms leading to decreased concentrations of vitamin D metabolites is sick newborn foals are likely multifactorial. Compared to horses, healthy newborn foals have lower concentrations of 25(OH)D3 and DBP [[9,26], which may predispose them to hypovitaminosis D during illness for a number of reasons, including reduced 25(OH)D3 stores, decreased renal synthesis of 1,25(OH)2D3, and increased renal and gastrointestinal losses of vitamin D metabolites and DBP. In addition, since milk is the main source of vitamin D3 for newborn foals, reduced intake due to disease could further vitamin D deficiency [9,27]. Inflammatory cytokines may also alter the expression of enzymes involved in the synthesis and catabolism of vitamin D metabolites [28]. Immune cells also express 1a-hydroxylase and leukocyte dysfunction could decrease 1,25(OH)2D3 synthesis [15,18]. In target tissues, increased 24-hydroxylase activity may decrease 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations, resulting in vitamin D deficiency [29]. It is also possible that increased concentrations of fibroblast growth factor-23 (FGF-23), a bone-derived
factor that inhibits 1a-hydroxylase activity, contributes to reduced 1,25(OH)2D3 synthesis during illness [30,31].

Low plasma DBP concentrations have been associated with sepsis, organ failure, hypovita- minosis D, and mortality in critically ill human patients [32-34]. In addition of transporting vitamin D metabolites, DBP has other functions. For example, during cell injury, DBP binds monomeric actin to prevent its polymerization and subsequent endothelial injury, vascular obstruction, and organ failure [33]. It also binds to endotoxins to protect against endotoxemia during sepsis [35]. Because DBP is a small protein (~55 kDa for humans and horses), it is conceivable that inflammatory conditions that alter endothelial and epithelial integrity (renal, intestinal, vascular) could result in protein loss, including DBP waste. From that perspective, we can propose that in septic foals, low DBP could contribute to a pro-inflammatory state, but also exacerbate hypovitaminosis D. This remains to be documented in sick equine neonates.

Other factors to consider in the pathogenesis of hypovitaminosis D are megalin and cubilin [36]. Megalin is a large transmembrane protein (~600 kDa) expressed in the proximal convoluted tubules where it acts as an endocytic receptor to recycle filtered plasma proteins [36]. Cubilin, a 460-kDa protein, is co-expressed and cooperates with megalin in protein uptake [36]. Both proteins are necessary in DBP - 25(OH)D3 endocytosis and subsequent synthesis of 1,25(OH)2D3 [37]. Endotoxemia and acute renal injury, which are common in septic foals, decrease the expression of megalin and cubilin in rodents [38]. Reduced expression of these proteins could lower the concentrations of 25(OH)D3 due to urinary wasting and 1,25(OH)2D3 from decreased renal synthesis.

In the present study, PTH concentrations were elevated in critically foals. This increase in PTH could be explained by hypocalcemia and/or hyperphosphatemia directly stimulating PTH secretion by the parathyroid chief cells [13]. However, it is also probable that low 1,25(OH)2D3 played a role [39]. Calcitriol inhibits parathyroid cell function and PTH secretion and a decline in 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations could trigger parathyroid chief cell proliferation and PTH secretion [13].

Low serum 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations in hospitalized and septic foals were associated with elevated concentrations of PTH. Physiologically, PTH stimulates 1,25(OH)2D3 production by increasing renal 1a-hydroxylase activity [13]. Thus, it would be expected that foals with high PTH will have elevated concentrations of 1,25(OH)2D3, which was not the case in the sick foals of this study. This suggests that PTH receptor signaling in critically ill foals may be impaired. As previously mentioned, it is also plausible that increased concentrations of FGF-23 could have suppressed 1,25(OH)2D3 synthesis [30]; however, information on FGF-23 in foals and horses is lacking.

Septic foals in this study had significantly lower total calcium concentrations than healthy and SNS foals. Although it would have been ideal to measure ionized calcium concentrations because it better reflects the active calcium status in the extracellular compartment, unlike total calcium, this is not a routine measurement in most equine hospitals [13]. However, we have already shown that septic foals develop ionized hypocalcemia [3]. The causes of equine neonatal hypocalcemia are poorly understood and likely multifactorial. These include intracellular sequestration, calcium chelation, alkalosis, intestinal losses, renal dysfunction, parathyroid gland dysfunction, hypovitaminosis D, and hypomagnesemia [3,4, 6,13,40]. Total hypocalcemia could have also resulted from hypoproteinemia [1]; however, serum total protein and albumin concentrations were not statistically different between foal groups, making it an unlikely cause of hypocalcemia in the septic foals of this study. Based on previous studies by our group [3], we suggest that a decrease in ionized calcium concentration is a major contributor to the development of total hypocalcemia in critically ill foals. However, this does not explain mechanistically why serum calcium concentrations decrease in foals with evidence of systemic inflammation.

In septic foals, hypocalcemia was not associated with low 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations, indicating that other factors are involved. It is unlikely that inappropriate PTH secretion is central to the development of equine neonatal hypocalcemia as PTH concentrations were elevated in the foals of this study and we have previously documented that PTH increases in response to illness in septic foals [3]. These findings further support our theory that PTH receptor resistance may be implicated in the pathogenesis of abnormal calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D homeostasis in sick foals.

Hyperphosphatemia was more prevalent than hypophosphatemia in sick foals, which is contrary to what has been reported in critically ill humans, where hypophosphatemia is more frequent [7]. The pathogenesis of hyperphosphatemia in critically ill foals is unclear, but potential explanations include cell injury, acidosis, magnesium deficiency, hypoparathyroidism, and PTH receptor resistance [41]. Hypervitaminosis D as a cause of hyperphosphatemia is these foals is unlikely. The fact that phosphorus and PTH were positively correlated further supports impaired PTH receptor signaling because an appropriate response to PTH would have been characterized by reduced phosphorus concentrations.

Even though magnesium concentrations were not measured in the foals of this study, hypomagnesemia reduces PTH secretion and action, and has been linked to hypocalcemia, hypovi- taminosis D, and hyperphosphatemia [13,42]. Often critically ill horses and foals develop hypomagnesemia [3,4].

Another system to take into consideration is the FGF-23/klotho axis [30, 31]. FGF-23 is a hypophosphatemic factor produced by osteoblast/osteocytes, while klotho, which is produced by renal tubular cells, is the co-receptor for FGF-23 [30, 31]. PTH and 1,25(OH)2D3 increase FGF-23 and klotho expression [30,43], and FGF-23 decreases renal phosphorus reabsorption and 1a-hydroxylase expression, and reduces PTH synthesis and secretion [30, 31]. One might speculate that in addition to PTH resistance, decreased klotho expression from low 1,25 (OH)2D3 concentrations could hamper FGF-23 receptor signaling, resulting in hyperphosphatemia and elevated PTH secretion. Although we have no evidence of abnormal FGF-23 and klotho concentrations in sick newborn foals, they should be considered in future equine neonatal studies.

In the study reported here, non-surviving septic foals had significantly lower concentrations of 25(OH)D3 and 1,25(OH)2D3 than septic surviving foals, and those with the lowest metabolite concentrations were more likely to die. Similarly, hypovitaminosis D has been associated with mortality in critically ill people [16-19], suggesting that in addition to calcium and phosphorus homeostasis, vitamin D3 has other essential functions. In acute illnesses, vitamin D enhances survival by boosting innate immunity, reducing local and systemic inflammation, and by increasing the synthesis of antimicrobial factors such as P-defensin and cathelicidin [44,45].

In conclusion, low concentrations of vitamin D3 metabolites is highly prevalent and associated with disease severity and outcome in hospitalized foals. These findings support a protective role for vitamin D3 against equine perinatal diseases. Based on these results, the therapeutic value of vitamin D3 in sick foals deserves clinical attention. Recent studies in critically ill human patients have shown benefits of vitamin D supplementation and clinical trials are ongoing [46-48]. Hyperphosphatemia and hypocalcemia, together with hypovitaminosis D and increased PTH concentrations, indicate that PTH resistance may be involved in the development of these abnormalities; however, foal-specific studies will be required to document abnormal PTH receptor signaling in response to systemic inflammatory processes. The importance of DBP, altered hydroxylase activities, and the FGF-23/klotho axis in disorders of vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and PTH in newborn foals remain to be explored.

Attached files

ID Name Comment Uploaded Size Downloads
5574 Septic Foals.jpg admin 06 Jun, 2015 27.16 Kb 869
5573 Foals F1.jpg admin 06 Jun, 2015 18.52 Kb 631
5572 Foals.pdf admin 06 Jun, 2015 630.21 Kb 579