Vitamin D receptor agonists' anti-inflammatory properties

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2014 May;1317:47-56. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12429. Epub 2014 Apr 22.


One century after its discovery, vitamin D has been shown to be, in fact, a pleiotropic steroid hormone, which, besides regulation of calcium homeostasis and bone turnover, has antiproliferative, prodifferentiation, antibacterial, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory properties in various cells and tissues. D hormone (1α,25(OH)2 D), regulated in an endocrine, autocrine, and paracrine manner, must be bound to the specific nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR) to exert epigenetic and genetic effects, acting as a connection between extracellular stimuli and genomic responses of the cells. Since only high doses of hormone, provoking hypercalcemia, can achieve immunomodulatory effects, more than 3000 VDR agonists have been synthesized. Numerous experimental trials have been performed in animal models, evidencing the preventive and therapeutic potential of VDR agonists for chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer. Considering the selective anti-inflammatory effects of VDR agonists compared to glucocorticoids, sparing microbicidal functions, the fear of hypercalcemia as their only frequent side effect becomes a questionable reason for the lack of clinical studies.

Keywords: VDR agonist; inflammation; vitamin D; vitamin D receptor (VDR).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Calcitriol / biosynthesis
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / agonists*
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Rheumatic Diseases / drug therapy
  • Rheumatic Diseases / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Calcitriol