Overview of general physiologic features and functions of vitamin D

Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;80(6 Suppl):1689S-96S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/80.6.1689S.


Vitamin D3 is a prohormone produced in skin through ultraviolet irradiation of 7-dehydrocholesterol. It is biologically inert and must be metabolized to 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in the liver and then to 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in the kidney before function. The hormonal form of vitamin D3, ie, 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, acts through a nuclear receptor to carry out its many functions, including calcium absorption, phosphate absorption in the intestine, calcium mobilization in bone, and calcium reabsorption in the kidney. It also has several noncalcemic functions in the body. This overview provides a brief description of the physiologic, endocrinologic, and molecular biologic characteristics of vitamin D. It also provides information on new selective analogs of 1alpha,25-dihydroyvitamin D3 for therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cholecalciferol / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / physiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Phosphates
  • Vitamin D
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Calcitriol
  • Calcium