Vitamin D metabolism, sex hormones, and male reproductive function

Reproduction. 2012 Aug;144(2):135-52. doi: 10.1530/REP-12-0064. Epub 2012 May 25.


The spectrum of vitamin D (VD)-mediated effects has expanded in recent years, and VD is now recognized as a versatile signaling molecule rather than being solely a regulator of bone health and calcium homeostasis. One of the recently identified target areas of VD is male reproductive function. The VD receptor (VDR) and the VD metabolizing enzyme expression studies documented the presence of this system in the testes, mature spermatozoa, and ejaculatory tract, suggesting that both systemic and local VD metabolism may influence male reproductive function. However, it is still debated which cell is the main VD target in the testis and to what extent VD is important for sex hormone production and function of spermatozoa. This review summarizes descriptive studies on testicular VD metabolism and spatial distribution of VDR and the VD metabolizing enzymes in the mammalian testes and discusses mechanistic and association studies conducted in animals and humans. The reviewed evidence suggests some effects of VD on estrogen and testosterone biosynthesis and implicates involvement of both systemic and local VD metabolism in the regulation of male fertility potential.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism*
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / physiology
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / physiology
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D