Sunlight regulates the cutaneous production of vitamin D3 by causing its photodegradation

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1989 May;68(5):882-7. doi: 10.1210/jcem-68-5-882.


Exposure to sunlight initiates the formation of vitamin D3 in skin as the UV B radiation in the solar spectrum causes the photoconversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3. A heat-induced isomerization then converts previtamin D3 to vitamin D3 over a period of days. A number of irradiation products of vitamin D3 are known to form upon irradiation with high intensity UV radiation, but the effect of subsequent exposures to sunlight on the vitamin D3 formed in skin is not known. To investigate this phenomenon, human skin containing vitamin D3 was exposed to sunlight in Boston. A model system of [3H]vitamin D3 in methanol was also used to study the effects of sunlight on vitamin D3 throughout the year. Vitamin D3 proved to be exquisitely sensitive to sunlight, and once formed in the skin, exposure to sunlight resulted in its rapid photodegradation to a variety of photoproducts, including 5,6-transvitamin D3, suprasterol I, and suprasterol II.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Boston
  • Cholecalciferol / analysis
  • Cholecalciferol / biosynthesis*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Epidermis / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Models, Biological
  • Photochemistry
  • Seasons
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Sunlight*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Lipids
  • Cholecalciferol