Control of TCF-4 expression by VDR and vitamin D in the mouse mammary gland and colorectal cancer cell lines

PLoS One. 2009 Nov 17;4(11):e7872. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007872.


Background: The vitamin D receptor (VDR) pathway is important in the prevention and potentially in the treatment of many cancers. One important mechanism of VDR action is related to its interaction with the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway. Agonist-bound VDR inhibits the oncogenic Wnt/beta-catenin/TCF pathway by interacting directly with beta-catenin and in some cells by increasing cadherin expression which, in turn, recruits beta-catenin to the membrane. Here we identify TCF-4, a transcriptional regulator and beta-catenin binding partner as an indirect target of the VDR pathway.

Methodology/principal findings: In this work, we show that TCF-4 (gene name TCF7L2) is decreased in the mammary gland of the VDR knockout mouse as compared to the wild-type mouse. Furthermore, we show 1,25(OH)2D3 increases TCF-4 at the RNA and protein levels in several human colorectal cancer cell lines, the effect of which is completely dependent on the VDR. In silico analysis of the human and mouse TCF7L2 promoters identified several putative VDR binding elements. Although TCF7L2 promoter reporters responded to exogenous VDR, and 1,25(OH)2D3, mutation analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, showed that the increase in TCF7L2 did not require recruitment of the VDR to the identified elements and indicates that the regulation by VDR is indirect. This is further confirmed by the requirement of de novo protein synthesis for this up-regulation.

Conclusions/significance: Although it is generally assumed that binding of beta-catenin to members of the TCF/LEF family is cancer-promoting, recent studies have indicated that TCF-4 functions instead as a transcriptional repressor that restricts breast and colorectal cancer cell growth. Consequently, we conclude that the 1,25(OH)2D3/VDR-mediated increase in TCF-4 may have a protective role in colon cancer as well as diabetes and Crohn's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factor 4
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Cadherins
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • TCF4 protein, human
  • Transcription Factor 4
  • Transcription Factors
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin
  • Vitamin D