AUTHOR Dr. Carlos Orozco (BSc, MSc, ND, MD, PhD, FPAMS).

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that functions to regulate specific gene expression following interaction with its intracellular receptor.

Biological Function
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that functions to regulate specific gene expression following interaction with its intracellular receptor. The biologically active form of the hormone is 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3, also termed calcitriol). Calcitriol functions primarily to regulate calcium and phosphorous homeostasis.

Active calcitriol is derived from ergosterol (produced in plants) and from 7-dehydrocholesterol (produced in the skin). Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is formed by uv irradiation of ergosterol. In the skin 7-dehydrocholesterol is converted to cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) following uvirradiation.
Vitamin D2 and D3 are processed to D2-calcitriol and D3-calcitriol, respectively, by the same enzymatic pathways in the body. Cholecalciferol (or ergocalciferol) are absorbed from the intestine and transported to the liver bound to a specific vitamin D-binding protein. In the liver cholecalciferol is hydroxylated at the 25 position by a specific D3-25-hydroxylase generating 25-hydroxy-D3 [25-(OH)D3] which is the major circulating form of vitamin D. Conversion of 25-(OH)D3 to its biologically active form, calcitriol, occurs through the activity of a specific D3-1-hydroxylase present in the proximal convoluted tubules of the kidneys, and in bone and placenta. 25-(OH)D3 can also be hydroxylated at the 24 position by a specific D3-24-hydroxylase in the kidneys, intestine, placenta and cartilage.

Activation of Vitamin D
Vitamin D itself is biologically inactive, and it must be metabolized to its biologically active forms. After it is consumed in the diet or synthesized in the skin, vitamin D enters the circulation and is transported to the liver. In the liver, vitamin D is hydroxylated to form 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], the major circulating form of vitamin D. Increased exposure to sunlight or increased intake of vitamin D increases serum levels of 25(OH)D, making the serum 25(OH)D concentration a useful indicator of vitamin D nutritional status. In the kidney and other tissues, the 25(OH)D3-1-hydroxylase enzyme catalyzes a second hydroxylation of 25(OH)D, resulting in the formation of 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D]—the most potent form of vitamin D. Most of the physiological effects of vitamin D in the body are related to the activity of 1,25(OH)2D.

References:

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  4. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1999.
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