The pleiotropic effects of vitamin D in bone

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2013 Jul;136:190-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2012.08.008. Epub 2012 Sep 5.


A current controversial question related to vitamin D supplementation is what level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D3) is required to reduce the incidence of osteoporotic fractures. The reasoning behind vitamin D supplementation has been mostly derived from the role of vitamin D to promote intestinal calcium absorption and reduce bone resorption. While minimum 25(OH)D3 levels of 20nmol/L are required for sufficient intestinal calcium absorption to prevent osteomalacia, the mechanistic details of how higher 25(OH)D3 levels, well beyond that required for optimal calcium absorption, are able to prevent fractures and increase bone mineral density is unclear. Substantial evidence has arisen over the past decade that conversion of 25(OH)D3 to 1,25(OH)2D3via the 1-alpha hydroxylase (CYP27B1) enzyme in osteoblasts, osteocytes, chondrocytes and osteoclasts regulates processes such as cell proliferation, maturation and mineralization as well as bone resorption, which are all dependent on the presence the of the vitamin D receptor (VDR). We and others have also shown that increased vitamin D activity in mature osteoblasts by increasing levels of VDR or CYP27B1 leads to improved bone mineral volume using two separate transgenic mouse models. While questions remain regarding activities of vitamin D in bone to influence the anabolic and catabolic processes, the biological importance of vitamin D activity within the bone is unquestioned. However, a clearer understanding of the varied mechanisms by which vitamin D directly and indirectly influences mineral bone status are required to support evidence-based recommendations for vitamin D supplementation to reduce the risk of fractures. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Vitamin D workshop'.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Calcifediol / blood
  • Calcifediol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Osteoporosis / blood
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / blood
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D / physiology


  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcifediol