Vitamin D in Kidney Transplant Recipients: Mechanisms and Therapy

Am J Nephrol. 2016;43(6):397-407. doi: 10.1159/000446863. Epub 2016 May 28.


Chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD) is common in kidney transplant recipients (KTRs), where secondary hyperparathyroidism (HPTH) and post-transplantation bone disease (PTBD) are potential effectors of both graft and vascular aging. Reduced 25(OH)D levels are highly prevalent in KTRs. Experimental and clinical evidence support the direct involvement of deranged vitamin D metabolism in CKD-MBD among KTRs. This review analyzes the pathophysiology of vitamin D derangement in KTRs and its fall out on patient and graft outcome, highlighting the roles of both nutritional and active vitamin D compounds to treat PTBD, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and graft dysfunction. Fibroblast growth factor-23-parathyroid hormone (PTH)-vitamin D axis, immunosuppressive therapy and previous bone status have been associated with PTBD. Although several studies reported reduced PTH levels in KTRs receiving nutritional vitamin D, its effects on bone mineral density (BMD) remain controversial. Active vitamin D reduced PTH levels and increased BMD after transplantation, but paricalcitol treatment was not accompanied by benefits on osteopenia. Vitamin D is considered protective against CVD due to the widespread pleiotropic effects, but data among KTRs remain scanty. Although vitamin deficiency is associated with lower glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and faster estimated GFR decline and data on the anti-proteinuric effects of vitamin D receptor activation (VDRA) in KTRs sound encouraging, reports on related improvement on graft survival are still lacking. Clinical data support the efficacy of VDRA against HPTH and show promising evidence of VDRA's effect in counteracting post-transplant proteinuria. New insights are mandatory to establish if the improvement of surrogate outcomes will translate into better patient and graft outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Kidney Disease-Mineral and Bone Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Chronic Kidney Disease-Mineral and Bone Disorder / etiology
  • Graft Survival / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Postoperative Complications / drug therapy*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamin D