What is the physiology of vitamin D in the body?

Updated: Dec 15, 2020
  • Author: Vin Tangpricha, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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The production of vitamin D3 in the skin involves a series of reactions initiating with 7-dehydrocholesterol. Upon exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation between the wavelengths of 290-315 nm, 7-dehydrocholesterol is converted to previtamin D3, which is then converted to vitamin D3 after a thermally induced isomerization reaction in the skin. From the skin, newly formed vitamin D3 enters the circulation by binding to vitamin D binding protein (DBP). In order to become active, vitamin D requires 2 sequential hydroxylations to form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25[OH]2 D).

Vitamin D is initially hydroxylated in the 25 position by the hepatic microsomal and/or mitochondrial enzyme vitamin D 25-hydroxylase. The second hydroxylation occurs in the kidney and is performed by the P450 enzyme 25-hydroxyvitamin D-1 alpha-hydroxylase.

Upon entering the cell, the 1,25(OH)2 D hormone binds to the vitamin D receptor (VDR). The bound vitamin D receptor then forms a heterodimer with the retinoic acid X receptor (RXR). This heterodimer then goes to the nucleus to bind deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and increases transcription of vitamin D–related genes.

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