Modulation effects of zinc on the formation of vitamin D receptor and retinoid X receptor alpha-DNA transcription complexes: analysis by microelectrospray mass spectrometry

Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2001;15(12):1011-6. doi: 10.1002/rcm.332.


The vitamin D receptor (VDR) binds zinc, and the activity of vitamin D dependent genes in cells is influenced by intracellular zinc concentrations. To determine whether zinc influences vitamin D action in cells by modulating the formation of VDR and retinoid x receptor alpha (RXR alpha) heterodimer-DNA complexes, we used microelectrospray ionization mass spectrometry (microESI-MS) to assess receptor-DNA interactions in the presence of varying amounts of zinc. In the absence of DNA, VDR and RXR alpha proteins were primarily monomeric with small amounts of protein homodimers also observed. Zn(2+) (up to 300 microM) did not change VDR or RXR alpha monomer/homodimer ratios. Mass spectra of VDR combined with RXR alpha were a sum of individual protein spectral data. Zn(2+) had no effect on the interactions of receptors. With increasing amounts of Zn(2+), additional Zn(2+) ions were detected bound to VDR and RXR alpha. microESI-MS analyses of RXR alpha in the presence of an osteopontin vitamin D DNA response element (OP-VDRE) showed RXR alpha homodimer/OP-VDRE complexes. DNA-protein complex formation increased on addition of Zn(2+) up to 200 microM; at 300 microM, Zn(2+) dissociation of the RXR alpha homodimer/OP-VDRE complexes occurred, coincident with the appearance of RXR alpha monomeric protein. When microESI-MS analyses were carried out with VDR and OP-VDRE, VDR homodimer/OP-VDRE complexes were not detected. Addition of Zn(2+) did not result in VDR/OP-VDRE complex formation. Heterodimeric VDR/RXR alpha complexes with OP-VDRE were detected by microESI-MS. Addition of 300 microM Zn(2+) resulted in dissociation of the heterodimeric VDR/RXR alpha/OP-VDRE complex. Addition of Mg(2+) in place of Zn(2+) did not alter protein/OP-VDRE complexes. Our results show that zinc modulates steroid hormone receptor-DNA interactions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / chemistry
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / chemistry
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism*
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization / methods*
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Zinc / metabolism*
  • Zinc / pharmacology


  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA
  • Zinc