New aspects of vitamin D metabolism and action - addressing the skin as source and target

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2020 Apr;16(4):234-252. doi: 10.1038/s41574-019-0312-5. Epub 2020 Feb 6.


Vitamin D has a key role in stimulating calcium absorption from the gut and promoting skeletal health, as well as many other important physiological functions. Vitamin D is produced in the skin. It is subsequently metabolized to its hormonally active form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D), by the 1-hydroxylase and catabolized by the 24-hydroxylase. In this Review, we pay special attention to the effect of mutations in these enzymes and their clinical manifestations. We then discuss the role of vitamin D binding protein in transporting vitamin D and its metabolites from their source to their targets, the free hormone hypothesis for cell entry and HSP70 for intracellular transport. This is followed by discussion of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) that mediates the cellular actions of 1,25(OH)2D. Cell-specific recruitment of co-regulatory complexes by liganded VDR leads to changes in gene expression that result in distinct physiological actions by 1,25(OH)2D, which are disrupted by mutations in the VDR. We then discuss the epidermis and hair follicle, to provide a non-skeletal example of a tissue that expresses VDR that not only makes vitamin D but also can metabolize it to its hormonally active form. This enables vitamin D to regulate epidermal differentiation and hair follicle cycling and, in so doing, to promote barrier function, wound healing and hair growth, while limiting cancer development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D
  • 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D