Vitamin D regulates tyrosine hydroxylase expression: N-cadherin a possible mediator

Neuroscience. 2015 Sep 24;304:90-100. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.07.048. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Vitamin D is a neuroactive steroid. Its genomic actions are mediated via the active form of vitamin D, 1,25(OH)2D3, binding to the vitamin D receptor (VDR). The VDR emerges in the rat mesencephalon at embryonic day 12, representing the peak period of dopaminergic cell birth. Our prior studies reveal that developmental vitamin D (DVD)-deficiency alters the ontogeny of dopaminergic neurons in the developing mesencephalon. There is also consistent evidence from others that 1,25(OH)2D3 promotes the survival of dopaminergic neurons in models of dopaminergic toxicity. In both developmental and toxicological studies it has been proposed that 1,25(OH)2D3 may modulate the differentiation and maturation of dopaminergic neurons; however, to date there is lack of direct evidence. The aim of the current study is to investigate this both in vitro using a human SH-SY5Y cell line transfected with rodent VDR and in vivo using a DVD-deficient model. Here we show that in VDR-expressing SH-SY5Y cells, 1,25(OH)2D3 significantly increased production of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate-limiting enzyme in dopamine synthesis. This effect was dose- and time-dependent, but was not due to an increase in TH-positive cell number, nor was it due to the production of trophic survival factors for dopamine neurons such as glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). In accordance with 1,25(OH)2D3's anti-proliferative actions in the brain, 1,25(OH)2D3 reduced the percentage of dividing cells from approximately 15-10%. Given the recently reported role of N-cadherin in the direct differentiation of dopaminergic neurons, we examined here whether it may be elevated by 1,25(OH)2D3. We confirmed this in vitro and more importantly, we showed DVD-deficiency decreases N-cadherin expression in the embryonic mesencephalon. In summary, in our in vitro model we have shown 1,25(OH)2D3 increases TH expression, decreases proliferation and elevates N-cadherin, a potential factor that mediates these processes. Accordingly all of these findings are reversed in the developing brain in our DVD-deficiency model. Remarkably our findings in the DVD-deficiency model phenocopy those found in a recent model where N-cadherin was regionally ablated from the mesencephalon. This study has, for the first time, shown that vitamin D directly modulates TH expression and strongly suggests N-cadherin may be a plausible mediator of this process both in vitro and in vivo. Our findings may help to explain epidemiological data linking DVD deficiency with schizophrenia.

Keywords: 1,25(OH)(2)D(3); N-cadherin; developmental vitamin D (DVD)-deficiency; dopamine; proliferation; tyrosine hydroxylase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism*
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Steroids / administration & dosage*
  • Transfection
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD
  • CDH2 protein, human
  • Cadherins
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • N-cadherin, rat
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Steroids
  • Vitamin D
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine