New insights into the mechanisms of vitamin D action

J Cell Biochem. 2003 Mar 1;88(4):695-705. doi: 10.1002/jcb.10423.


The biologically active metabolite of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1,25(OH)(2)D(3)) is a secosteroid whose genomic mechanism of action is similar to that of other steroid hormones and is mediated by stereospecific interaction of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) with the vitamin D receptor (VDR) which heterodimerizes with the retinoid X receptor (RXR). After interaction with the vitamin D response element (VDRE) in the promoter of target genes, transcription proceeds through the interaction of VDR with coactivators and with the transcription machinery. The identification of the steps involved in this process has been a major focus of recent research in the field. However, the functional significance of target proteins as well as the functional significance of proteins involved in the transport and metabolism of vitamin D is also of major importance. Within the past few years much new information has been obtained from studies using knockout and transgenic mice. New insight has been obtained using this technology related to the physiological significance of the vitamin D binding protein (DBP), used to transport vitamin D metabolites, as well as the physiological significance of target proteins including 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3) 24-hydroxylase (24(OH)ase), 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3)-1 alpha-hydroxylase (1 alpha-(OH)ase), VDR, and osteopontin. The crystal structure of the DBP and the ligand binding domain of the VDR have recently been reported, explaining, in part, the unique properties of these proteins. In addition novel 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) target genes have been identified including the epithelial calcium channel, present in the proximal intestine and in the distal nephron. Thus in recent years a number of exciting discoveries have been made that have enhanced our understanding of mechanisms involved in the pleiotropic actions of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitriol / genetics
  • Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels / chemistry
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / physiology
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Lithocholic Acid / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 1
  • Osteogenesis / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / chemistry
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / physiology
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • Vitamin D / genetics
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D3 24-Hydroxylase


  • Calcium Channels
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV6 channel
  • Transcription Factors
  • Vitamin D
  • Lithocholic Acid
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Steroid Hydroxylases
  • Vitamin D3 24-Hydroxylase
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Ncoa1 protein, mouse
  • Nuclear Receptor Coactivator 1
  • Calcitriol