While current dogma argues that vitamin D prodrugs require side-chain activation by liver enzymes, recent data suggest that hydroxylation may also occur extrahepatically. We used keratinocytes and recombinant human enzyme to test if the 25-hydroxyvitamin D-24-hydroxylase (CYP24A1) is capable of target cell activation and inactivation of a model prodrug, 1alpha-hydroxyvitamin D2 (1alpha(OH)D2) in vitro. Mammalian cells stably transfected with CYP24A1 (V79-CYP24A1) converted 1alpha(OH)D2 to a series of metabolites similar to those observed in murine keratinocytes and the human cell line HPK1A-ras, confirming the central role of CYP24A1 in metabolism. Products of 1alpha(OH)D2 included the active metabolites 1alpha,24-dihydroxyvitamin D2 (1alpha,24(OH)2D2) and 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D2 (1alpha,25(OH)2D2); the formation of both indicating the existence of distinct activation pathways. A novel water-soluble metabolite, identified as 26-carboxy-1alpha,24(OH)2D2, was the presumed terminal degradation product of 1alpha(OH)D2 synthesized by CYP24A1 via successive 24-hydroxylation, 26-hydroxylation and further oxidation at C-26. This acid was absent in keratinocytes from Cyp24a1 null mice. Slower clearance rates of 1alpha(OH)D2 and 1alpha,24(OH)2D2 relative to 1alpha,25(OH)2D2 and 1alpha,25(OH)2D3 were noted, arguing for a role of 24-hydroxylated metabolites in the altered biological activity profile of 1alpha(OH)D2. Our findings suggest that CYP24A1 can activate and inactivate vitamin D prodrugs in skin and other target cells in vitro, offering the potential for treatment of hyperproliferative disorders such as psoriasis by topical administration of these prodrugs.