Vitamin D deficiency promotes skeletal muscle hypersensitivity and sensory hyperinnervation

J Neurosci. 2011 Sep 28;31(39):13728-38. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3637-11.2011.


Musculoskeletal pain affects nearly half of all adults, most of whom are vitamin D deficient. Previous findings demonstrated that putative nociceptors ("pain-sensing" nerves) express vitamin D receptors (VDRs), suggesting responsiveness to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. In the present study, rats receiving vitamin D-deficient diets for 2-4 weeks showed mechanical deep muscle hypersensitivity, but not cutaneous hypersensitivity. Muscle hypersensitivity was accompanied by balance deficits and occurred before onset of overt muscle or bone pathology. Hypersensitivity was not due to hypocalcemia and was actually accelerated by increased dietary calcium. Morphometry of skeletal muscle innervation showed increased numbers of presumptive nociceptor axons (peripherin-positive axons containing calcitonin gene-related peptide), without changes in sympathetic or skeletal muscle motor innervation. Similarly, there was no change in epidermal innervation. In culture, sensory neurons displayed enriched VDR expression in growth cones, and sprouting was regulated by VDR-mediated rapid response signaling pathways, while sympathetic outgrowth was not affected by different concentrations of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. These findings indicate that vitamin D deficiency can lead to selective alterations in target innervation, resulting in presumptive nociceptor hyperinnervation of skeletal muscle, which in turn is likely to contribute to muscular hypersensitivity and pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chronic Pain / metabolism
  • Chronic Pain / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Hyperalgesia / metabolism
  • Hyperalgesia / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / pathology*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / pathology*