The vitamin D receptor in dopamine neurons; its presence in human substantia nigra and its ontogenesis in rat midbrain

Neuroscience. 2013 Apr 16;236:77-87. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.01.035. Epub 2013 Jan 25.


There is growing evidence that vitamin D is a neuroactive steroid capable of regulating multiple pathways important for both brain development and mature brain function. In particular, there is evidence from rodent models that prenatal vitamin D deficiency alters the development of dopaminergic pathways and this disruption is associated with altered behavior and neurochemistry in the adult brain. Although the presence of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) has been noted in the human substantia nigra, there is a lack of direct evidence showing that VDR is present in dopaminergic cells. Here we confirm that the VDR is present in the nucleus of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons in both the human and rat substantia nigra, and it emerges early in development in the rat, between embryonic day 12 (E12) and E15. Consistent evidence based on immunohistochemistry, real-time PCR and western blot confirmed a pattern of increasing VDR expression in the rat midbrain until weaning. The nuclear expression of VDR in TH-positive neurons during critical periods of brain development suggests that alterations in early life vitamin D status may influence the orderly development of dopaminergic neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon / growth & development*
  • Mesencephalon / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Substantia Nigra / growth & development*
  • Substantia Nigra / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Receptors, Calcitriol