Mice deficient in the expression of vitamin D-binding protein (DBP) are normocalcemic despite undetectable levels of circulating 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25(OH)(2)D(3)]. We used this in vivo mouse model together with cells in culture to explore the impact of DBP on the biological activity of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3). Modest changes in the basal expression of genes involved in 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) metabolism and calcium homeostasis were observed in vivo; however, these changes seemed unlikely to explain the normal calcium balance seen in DBP-null mice. Further investigation revealed that despite the reduced blood levels of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) in these mice, tissue concentrations were equivalent to those measured in wild-type counterparts. Thus, the presence of DBP has limited impact on the extracellular pool of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) that is biologically active and that accumulates within target tissues. In cell culture, in contrast, the biological activity of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) is significantly impacted by DBP. Here, although DBP deficiency had no effect on the activation profile itself, the absence of DBP strongly reduced the concentration of exogenous 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) necessary for transactivation. Surprisingly, analogous studies in wild-type and DBP-null mice, wherein we explored the activity of exogenous 1,25(OH)(2)D(3), produced strikingly different results as compared with those in vitro. Here, the carrier protein had virtually no impact on the distribution, uptake, activation profile, or biological potency of the hormone. Collectively, these experiments suggest that whereas DBP is important to total circulating 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) and sequesters extracellular levels of this hormone both in vivo and in vitro, the binding protein does not influence the hormone's biologically active pool.