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FASEB J. 1988 Mar 1;2(3):224-36.

The vitamin D story: a collaborative effort of basic science and clinical medicine.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison 53706.


The discovery in 1919-1924 of vitamin D and its production in skin and foods by UV irradiation led to the elimination of rickets as a major medical problem. The identification and chemical preparation of vitamin D in the next decade provided large quantities of vitamin D to the physician for the treatment of a variety of metabolic bone diseases. Early in the 1960s, little was known about the function of vitamin D in causing mineralization of the skeleton, and hence in preventing the disease rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. With the application of modern tools of biochemistry came the discovery that vitamin D must first be modified by 25-hydroxylation in the liver followed by 1 alpha-hydroxylation in the kidney to produce the vitamin D hormone 1 alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25-(OH)2D3]. This process is strongly feedback-regulated and is one of the major endocrine systems regulating plasma calcium and phosphorus concentrations. Furthermore, it is a major endocrine system regulating bone mass and state. With the chemical synthesis of 1,25-(OH)2D3 and many of its analogs has come the possibility of treating a number of metabolic bone diseases not previously managed adequately, such as vitamin D-resistant rickets, hypoparathyroidism, renal osteodystrophy, and osteoporosis. By using 1,25-(OH)2D3, considerable work has been carried out to understand how this hormone facilitates calcium transport across the intestinal membrane. Modern work is described on the molecular mechanism of action of the vitamin D hormone in eliciting the cellular responses that result in mineral homeostasis. The possible use of the vitamin D analogs to bring about differentiation of myelocytic-type leukemias and in the treatment of psoriasis has been an important new development. This paper will thus be a blend of basic science of the vitamin D system and the application of that information to the treatment of disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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