Role of the vitamin D receptor in hair follicle biology

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Mar;103(3-5):344-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.12.036. Epub 2007 Jan 16.


The vitamin D receptor (VDR) is expressed in numerous cells and tissues, including the skin. The critical requirement for cutaneous expression of the VDR has been proven by investigations in mice and humans lacking functional receptors. These studies demonstrate that absence of the VDR leads to the development of alopecia. The hair follicle is formed by reciprocal interactions between an epidermal placode, which gives rise to the hair follicle keratinocytes and the underlying mesoderm which gives rise to the dermal papilla. Hair follicle morphogenesis ends the second week of life in mice. Studies in VDR null mice have failed to demonstrate a cutaneous abnormality during this period of hair follicle morphogenesis. However, VDR null mice are unable to initiate a new hair cycle after the period of morphogenesis is complete, therefore, do not grow new hair. Investigations in transgenic mice have demonstrated that restricted expression of the VDR to keratinocytes is capable of preventing alopecia in the VDR null mice, thus demonstrating that the epidermal component of the hair follicle requires VDR expression to maintain normal hair follicle homeostasis. Studies were then performed to determine which regions of the VDR were required for these actions. Investigations in mice lacking the first zinc finger of the VDR have demonstrated that they express a truncated receptor containing an intact ligand binding and AF2 domain. These mice are a phenocopy of mice lacking the VDR, thus demonstrate the critical requirement of the DNA binding domain for hair follicle homeostasis. Transgenic mice expressing VDRs with mutations in either the ligand-binding domain or the AF2 domain were generated. These investigations demonstrated that mutant VDRs incapable of ligand-dependent transactivation were able to prevent alopecia. Investigations are currently underway to define the mechanism by which the unliganded VDR maintains hair follicle homeostasis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Calcitriol