The vitamin D response element in the bone tissue-specific osteocalcin gene has served as a prototype for understanding molecular mechanisms regulating physiologic responsiveness of vitamin D-dependent genes in bone cells. We briefly review factors which contribute to vitamin D transcriptional control. The organization of the vitamin D response element (VDRE), the multiple activities of the vitamin D receptor transactivation complex, and the necessity for protein-protein interactions between the VDR-RXR heterodimer activation complex and DNA binding proteins at other regulatory elements, including AP-1 sites and TATA boxes, provide for precise regulation of gene activity in concert with basal levels of transcription. We present evidence for molecular mechanisms regulating vitamin D-dependent mediated transcription of the osteocalcin gene that involve chromatin structure of the gene and nuclear architecture. Modifications in nucleosomal organization, DNase I hypersensitivity and localization of vitamin D receptor interacting proteins in subnuclear domains are regulatory components of vitamin D-dependent gene transcription. A model is proposed to account for the inability of vitamin D induction of the osteocalcin gene in the absence of ongoing basal transcription by competition of the YY1 nuclear matrix-associated transcription factor for TFIIB-VDR interactions. Activation of the VDR-RXR complex at the OC VDRE occurs through modifications in chromatin mediated in part by interaction of OC gene regulatory sequences with the nuclear matrix-associated Cbfa1 (Runx2) transcription factor which is required for osteogenesis. Copyright © 2001 Elsevier Science Inc.