Vitamin D Receptor Expression in Dogs

J Vet Intern Med. 2018 Mar;32(2):764-774. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15052. Epub 2018 Feb 22.


Background: There is growing evidence linking low blood vitamin D concentration to numerous diseases in people and in dogs. Vitamin D influences cellular function by signaling through the vitamin D receptor (VDR). Little is known about which non-skeletal tissues express the VDR or how inflammation influences its expression in the dog.

Objectives: To define which non-skeletal canine tissues express the VDR and to investigate expression in inflamed small intestine.

Animals: Thirteen non-skeletal tissues were collected prospectively from 6 control dogs. Thirty-five dogs diagnosed with a chronic enteropathy (CE) and 24 control dogs were prospectively enrolled and duodenal biopsies were evaluated for VDR expression.

Methods: Prospective; blinded assessment of canine intestinal VDR. Dogs with CE were included once other identifiable causes of intestinal disease were excluded. Age matched controls were included with no intestinal clinical signs. VDR expression was assessed immunohistochemically in all samples, using a Rat IgG VDR monoclonal antibody. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was also used for duodenal biopsies.

Results: VDR expression as assessed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) was highest in the kidney, duodenum, skin, ileum and spleen, and weak in the colon, heart, lymph node, liver, lung, and ovary. Gastric and testicular tissue did not express the VDR. There was no statistical difference in duodenal VDR expression between the 24 healthy dogs and 34 dogs with CE when quantified by either qPCR (P = 0.87) or IHC (P = 0.099).

Conclusions and clinical importance: The lack of down regulation of VDR expression in inflamed intestine contrasts with previous studies in humans. Our findings support future studies to investigate whether vitamin D and its analogues can be used to modulate intestinal inflammation in the dog.

Keywords: Chronic enteropathy; Immunohistochemistry; Inflammatory bowel disease; Tight junctions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dog Diseases / metabolism*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry / veterinary
  • Intestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Intestinal Diseases / veterinary*
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Receptors, Calcitriol