The vitamin D binding protein (DBP) is the major plasma carrier protein of vitamin D and its metabolites. Unlike other hydrophobic hormone-binding systems, it circulates in a considerably higher titer compared to its ligands. Apart from its specific sterol binding capacity, DBP exerts several other important biological functions such as actin scavenging, fatty acid transport, macrophage activation and chemotaxis. The DBP-gene is a member of a multigene cluster that includes albumin, α-fetoprotein, and α-albumin/afamin. All four genes are expressed predominantly in the liver with overlapping developmental profiles. DBP is a highly polymorphic serum protein with three common alleles (Gc1F, Gc1S and Gc2) and more than 120 rare variants. The presence of unique alleles is a useful tool for anthropological studies to discriminate and to reveal ancestral links between populations. Many studies have discussed the link between DBP-phenotypes and susceptibility or resistance to osteoporosis, Graves' disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, diabetes, COPD, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis and rheumatic fever. This article reviews the general characteristics, functions and clinical aspects of DBP. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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