Interleukin 12 (IL-12) is a heterodimeric, pro-inflammatory cytokine that plays a central role in activation and differentiation of CD4(+) T cells into interferon-γ secreting T-helper type 1 cells. IL-12B, a gene encoding the larger subunit of active IL-12, has been reported to be down-regulated by the nuclear hormone 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1α,25(OH)(2)D(3)), but the mechanism of the regulation is unknown. In this study, we have examined the molecular mechanism of transcriptional regulation of the IL-12B gene by 1α,25(OH)(2)D(3) in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-treated human monocytes (THP-1). Quantitative RT-PCR showed that IL-12B mRNA displays a cyclical expression profile and is down-regulated 2.8-fold during the first 8h and even 12.1-fold 24h after exposure to 1α,25(OH)(2)D(3). Gel shift and quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays demonstrated vitamin D receptor (VDR) binding to genomic regions 480 and 6300bp upstream of the IL-12B transcription start site (TSS). Quantitative ChIP assays also revealed that together with VDR and its partner RXR the above regions recruited the co-repressor NCOR2/SMRT and histone deacetylase 3 leading to a decreased histone 4 acetylation and increased histone 3 trimethylation at the IL-12B promoter and its TSS. We suggest that these repressive epigenetic changes eventually cause down-regulation of IL-12 expression. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 11th European Symposium on Calcium.