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J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Jan;118(1):11-6.

Lack of the vitamin D receptor is associated with reduced epidermal differentiation and hair follicle growth.

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Endocrine Unit, VA Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco, California 94121, USA.


The active vitamin D metabolite, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, acting through the vitamin D receptor, regulates the expression of genes in a variety of vitamin D-responsive tissues, including the epidermis. To investigate the role of the vitamin D receptor in mediating epidermal differentiation, we examined the histomorphology and expression of differentiation markers in the epidermis of vitamin D receptor knockout mice generated by gene targeting. The homozygous knockout mouse displayed a phenotype that closely resembles vitamin D-dependent rickets type II in humans, including the development of rickets and alopecia. Hair loss developed by 3 mo after birth and gradually led to nearly total hair loss by 8 mo. Histologic analysis of the skin of homozygous knockout mice revealed dilation of the hair follicles with the formation of dermal cysts starting at the age of 3 wk. These cysts increased in size and number with age. Epidermal differentiation markers, including involucrin, profilaggrin, and loricrin, detected by immunostaining and in situ hybridization, showed decreased expression levels in homozygous knockout mice from birth until 3 wk, preceding the morphologic changes observed in the hair follicles. Keratin 10 levels, however, were not reduced. At the ultrastructural level, homozygous knockout mice showed increased numbers of small dense granules in the granular layer with few or no surrounding keratin bundles and a loss of keratohyalin granules. Thus, both the interfollicular epidermis and the hair follicle appear to require the vitamin D receptor for normal differentiation. The temporal abnormalities between the two processes reflect the apparent lack of requirement for the vitamin D receptor during the anagen phase of the first (developmental) hair cycle, but with earlier effects on the terminal differentiation of the interfollicular epidermis.

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