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Light-dependent synthesis of cholecalciferol in a green plant


Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and several of its metabolites participate in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism in higher vertebrates (see refs 1,2 for reviews). In contrast to the synthesis of ergocalciferol, the vitamin D of plant origin, cholecalciferol synthesis has been considered to be confined to skin lipids of vertebrates. Its 6,7-cis-intermediate, precalciferol3, is formed by a photoreaction (wavelength 250–310 nm) from 7-dehydrocholesterol in or on skin tissue. Recently, however, a metabolite of cholecalciferol, 1,25-dihydrocholecalciferol, previously known to be synthesised only in mammalian and avian kidneys, has been detected in at least two species of Solanaceae4,5. Furthermore, Rambeck et al.6 showed that cholecalciferol occurs in the common grass, Trisetum flavescens which had been identified by Dirksen et al.7 as the cause of calcinosis in grazing cattle. We now demonstrate that cholecalciferol is formed in T. flavescens only in the presence of UV light, thus suggesting a similar path of synthesis in plants to that which occurs in vertebrates.

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Zucker, H., Stark, H. & Rambeck, W. Light-dependent synthesis of cholecalciferol in a green plant. Nature 283, 68–69 (1980).

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