1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25(OH)(2)D(3)], the active form of vitamin D, exerts potent effects on several tissues including cells of the immune system, where it affects T cell activation, differentiation and migration. The circulating, inactive form of vitamin D, 25(OH)D(3), is generally used as an indication of vitamin D status. However, use of this precursor depends on its uptake by cells and subsequent conversion by the enzyme 25(OH)D(3)-1α-hydroxylase (CYP27B1) into active 1,25(OH)(2)D(3). Using human T cells, we show in this study that addition of inactive 25(OH)D(3) is sufficient to alter T cell responses only when dendritic cells (DCs) are present. Mechanistically, CYP27B1 is induced in DCs upon maturation with LPS or upon T cell contact, resulting in the generation and release of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3), which subsequently affects T cell responses. In most tissues, vitamin D binding protein acts as a carrier to enhance the use of vitamin D. However, we show that vitamin D binding protein modulates T cell responses by restricting the availability of inactive 25(OH)D(3) to DC. These data indicate that the level of free 25(OH)D(3) available to DCs determines the inflammatory/regulatory balance of ensuing T cell responses.