Vitamin D in fetal brain development

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Aug;22(6):629-36. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 Jun 6.


In this review we will provide a concise summary of the evidence implicating a role for vitamin D in the developing brain. Vitamin D is known to affect a diverse array of cellular functions. Over the past 10 years data has emerged implicating numerous ways in which this vitamin could also affect the developing brain including its effects on cell differentiation, neurotrophic factor expression, cytokine regulation, neurotransmitter synthesis, intracellular calcium signaling, anti-oxidant activity, and the expression of genes/proteins involved in neuronal differentiation, structure and metabolism. Dysfunction in any of these processes could adversely affect development. Although there are many ways to study the effects of vitamin D on the developing CNS in vivo, we will concentrate on one experimental model that has examined the impact of the dietary absence of vitamin D in utero. Finally, we discuss the epidemiological data that suggests that vitamin D deficiency either in utero or in early life may have adverse neuropsychiatric implications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Developmental Biology*
  • Diet
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Fetus
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychotic Disorders / metabolism
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / genetics
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology


  • Antioxidants
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium