1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 increases nuclear vitamin D3 receptors by blocking ubiquitin/proteasome-mediated degradation in human skin

Mol Endocrinol. 1999 Oct;13(10):1686-94. doi: 10.1210/mend.13.10.0362.


1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 (D3) exerts its effects by binding to and activating nuclear vitamin D3 receptors (VDRs) that regulate transcription of target genes. We have investigated regulation of VDR levels in human skin in vivo and in cultured human keratinocytes. Quantitative ligand-binding analysis revealed that human skin expressed approximately 220 VDRs per cell, which bound D3 with high affinity [(dissociation constant (Kd) = 0.22 nM]. In human skin nuclear extracts, VDR exclusively bound to DNA containing vitamin D3 response elements as heterodimers with retinoid X receptors. Topical application of D3 to human skin elevated VDR protein levels 2-fold, as measured by both ligand-binding and DNA-binding assays. In contrast, the D3 analog calcipotriene had no effect on VDR levels. Topical D3 had no effect on VDR mRNA, indicating that D3 either stimulated synthesis and/or inhibited degradation of VDRs. To investigate this latter possibility, recombinant VDRs were incubated with skin lysates in the presence or absence of D3. The presence of D3 substantially protected VDRs against degradation by human skin lysates. VDR degradation was inhibited by proteasome inhibitors, but not lysosome or serine protease inhibitors. In cultured keratinocytes, D3 or proteasome inhibitors increased VDR protein without affecting VDR mRNA levels. In cells, VDR was ubiquitinated and this ubiquitination was inhibited by D3. Proteasome inhibitors in combination with D3 enhanced VDR-mediated gene expression, as measured by induction of vitamin D3 24-hydroxylase mRNA in cultured keratinocytes. Taken together, our findings indicate that low VDR levels are maintained, in part, through ubiquitin/proteasome-mediated degradation and that low VDR levels limit D3 signaling. D3 exerts dual positive influences on its nuclear receptor, simultaneously stimulating VDR transactivation activity and retarding VDR degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / analogs & derivatives
  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Administration, Topical
  • Calcitriol / analogs & derivatives
  • Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Calcitriol / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / drug effects
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / drug effects
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Dermatologic Agents / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Leucine / analogs & derivatives
  • Leucine / pharmacology
  • Leupeptins / pharmacology
  • Multienzyme Complexes / drug effects
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Phenylmethylsulfonyl Fluoride / pharmacology
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / drug effects
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / genetics
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / metabolism
  • Ubiquitins / drug effects
  • Ubiquitins / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D3 24-Hydroxylase


  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Leupeptins
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Ubiquitins
  • lactacystin
  • calcipotriene
  • Phenylmethylsulfonyl Fluoride
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Steroid Hydroxylases
  • Vitamin D3 24-Hydroxylase
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Calcitriol
  • Leucine
  • E 64
  • benzyloxycarbonylleucyl-leucyl-leucine aldehyde
  • Acetylcysteine