Vitamin D and the Epigenetic Machinery in Colon Cancer

Curr Med Chem. 2017;24(9):888-897. doi: 10.2174/0929867324666161117155325.


Vitamin D is an important hormone that regulates many physiological processes related to human health. Through its nuclear receptor, VDR, vitamin D controls gene expression through genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Increasing data have demonstrated the anti-cancer activities of vitamin D in various cancers, including colon cancer. This review summarizes the recent progresses in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of vitamin D and its interaction with the epigenetic machinery in colon cancer. Vitamin D changes the status of DNA methylation and histone modifications, resulting in the activation of tumor suppressors and inhibition of oncogenes. In addition, vitamin D activates the expression of tumor suppressing miRNAs, which contribute to the tumor suppressive activity. Further understanding of the epigenetic action of vitamin D will help the development of therapeutic strategies targeting the vitamin D signaling pathway without inducing the hypercalcemic side effects.

Keywords: DNA methylation; Vitamin D; chemotherapy; epigenetics; histone methylation; microRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / physiology*


  • Histones
  • MicroRNAs
  • Vitamin D