Osteoblasts are key regulatory cells in the control of systemic calcium ion (Ca2+) homeostasis. They, along with cells in the kidney and intestine, function as an integral part of the vitamin D endocrine system. The hormonally active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25[OH]2D3), interacts with osteoblasts at several levels to modulate their phenotype and function. The interactions involve distinct receptor systems that operate on unique time scales. Rapid nongenomic actions (milliseconds to minutes), mediated through membrane receptor systems, do not require protein synthesis and include activation of voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channels, induction of phospholipid and sphingolipid turnover, elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentrations, priming of parathyroid hormone (PTH)-sensitive ion channels, and activation of second messenger systems. In the longer term (many hours to days), interactions mediated through binding of 1,25(OH)2D3 to nuclear receptors, present in mature osteoblasts, modulate transcription of target genes. Target genes for 1,25(OH)2D3 including those encoding for the bone matrix proteins osteopontin (OPN) and osteocalcin (OCN), possess vitamin D response elements (VDRE) upstream of the transcriptional start site. In addition, it is now clear that a number of intermediate effects (1 to 3 hours) also occur. These effects require longer times than the aforementioned rapid effects, but precede the long-term consequences of activation of nuclear receptors. These include alterations in the phosphorylation state of various proteins secreted by osteoblasts, including OPN, attributable to activation/inactivation of various intracellular protein kinases and phosphatases. Intermediate effects are likely to involve both membrane-initiated rapid actions and transcriptional effects on early genes that do not require the nuclear receptor for 1,25(OH)2D3. These intermediate effects, therefore, represent ideal targets for the study of the interaction or "cross-talk" between rapid membrane-initiated, nongenomic effects and nuclear receptor-mediated, genomic effects of 1,25(OH)2D3 on osteoblasts. Intermediate effects also invite the study of rapid, non-nuclear receptor-mediated genomic effects of 1,25(OH)2D3 on osteoblasts. Complete understanding of the mechanisms by which 1,25(OH)2D3 exerts its pleiotropic effects on osteoblasts and other target cells, contributing to control of Ca2+ homeostasis, requires integration of the concepts learned from studies of both rapid and long-term pathways.