Context: The vitamin D system has pleiotropic effects not only in bone metabolism. Its role in testicular steroidogenesis is new and deserves intensive research.
Objective: We hypothesize that vitamin D, especially 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D3 (calcitriol)] induces male steroidogenesis and intend to identify its impact on genes and pathways in testicular androgen regulation.
Methods: Human adult primary testicular cells were isolated, treated with 1,25(OH)2D3, and their gene expression levels profiled by microarray analysis. Highly regulated genes were confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR. In addition, the effects of 1,25(OH)2D3 in combination with LH and IGF-I on the gene expression level of androgens were assessed. T levels in the culture media were determined by a high-resolution ELISA. The expression of vitamin D receptor was confirmed at baseline and after 1,25(OH)2D3 stimulation using immunocytochemistry.
Results: Microarrays depicted 63 genes significantly regulated by 1,25(OH)2D3, including genes related to male androgen and vitamin D metabolism, mainly triggered by the vitamin D receptor/retinoid X receptor activation. 1,25(OH)2D3 led to significant changes in the expression profiles of reproductive genes and significantly increased T synthesis in human testicular cell cultures.
Conclusions: Data from our human primary testicular cell culture model suggest that vitamin D plays a major role in male steroidogenesis in vitro.