Animal studies suggest a role of vitamin D in fetal lung development although not studied in preterm animals. We tested the hypothesis that vitamin D depletion aggravates respiratory insufficiency in preterm rat offspring. Furthermore, the effects of vitamin D depletion on growth and lung surfactant were investigated. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned low vitamin D (VDL) or control diet before mating and followed with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (s-25(OH)D) determinations. After cesarean section at gestational day 19 (E19) or day 22 (E22), placental weight, birth weight, crown-rump-length (CRL), oxygenation (SaO2) at 30 min and survival time were recorded. The pup lungs were analyzed for phospholipid levels, surfactant protein A-D mRNA and the expression of the vitamin D receptor (VDR). S-25(OH)D was significantly lower in the VDL group at cesarean section (12 vs. 30nmol/L, p<0.0001). Compared to the controls, E19 VDL pups had lower birth weight (2.13 vs. 2.29g, p<0.001), lung weight (0.09 vs. 0.10g, p = 0.002), SaO2 (54% vs. 69%, p = 0.002) as well as reduced survival time (0.50 vs. 1.25h, p<0.0001). At E22, the VDL-induced pulmonary differences were leveled out, but VDL pups had lower CRL (4.0 vs. 4.5cm, p<0.0001). The phospholipid levels and the surfactant protein mRNA expression did not differ between the dietary groups. In conclusion, Vitamin D depletion led to lower oxygenation and reduced survival time in the preterm offspring, associated with reduced lung weight and birth weight. Further studies of vitamin D depletion in respiratory insufficiency in preterm neonates are warranted.