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Neuroscience. 2001;104(1):49-56.

Evidence of functional vitamin D receptors in rat hippocampus.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY 40536-0084, USA.


The steroid hormone vitamin D has important biological roles in calcium transport, cell growth, and cell differentiation. Its cellular activities are mediated by high affinity interaction with the vitamin D receptor. In brain, autoradiographic, immunohistologic, and messenger RNA expression studies implicate a number of neuronal systems, including the hippocampus, as potential targets of vitamin D. However, cellular distribution and protein expression, and binding of the receptor to vitamin D response elements have yet to be established in hippocampus. This investigation was undertaken to characterize the vitamin D receptor in rat hippocampus with western blot, immunocytochemistry, and gel shift analyses. The presence of the receptor protein in hippocampus extracts was revealed with western blotting using an anti-rat vitamin D receptor antiserum. In vivo and in vitro immunocytochemical results confirmed the presence of vitamin D receptor in neuronal and glial cells. In the hippocampus, the receptor was localized in pyramidal and granule cell layers, CA1, CA2, and CA3 subfields and in the dentate gyrus. Double labeling for the vitamin D receptor and glial fibrillary acidic protein revealed that glia also expressed the receptor protein. Gel shift analyses evaluated with the murine osteopontin vitamin D response element indicated a specific, bound receptor-containing complex from hippocampal extracts. Altogether, these findings clearly document the localization of vitamin D receptor in rat hippocampus and that hippocampus contains vitamin D receptors capable of specifically binding to DNA. In combination with reports of a neuroprotective role for vitamin D in hippocampal cell survival, these data suggest that the endogenous vitamin D receptor may mitigate processes related to cellular homeostasis, perhaps through a calcium buffering mechanism.

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