Vitamin D receptor (VDR) mediates many genomic and non-genomic effects of vitamin D. Recently, the mitochondrial effects of vitamin D have been characterized in many cell types. In this article, we investigated the importance of VDR not only in mitochondrial activity and integrity but also in cell health. The silencing of the receptor in different healthy, non-transformed, and cancer cells initially decreased cell growth and modulated the cell cycle. We demonstrated that, in silenced cells, the increased respiratory activity was associated with elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. In the long run, the absence of the receptor caused impairment of mitochondrial integrity and, finally, cell death. Our data reveal that VDR plays a central role in protecting cells from excessive respiration and production of ROS that leads to cell damage. Because we confirmed our observations in different models of both normal and cancer cells, we conclude that VDR is essential for the health of human tissues.
Keywords: cell death; cell proliferation; cytochrome C; mitochondria; reactive oxygen species; respiratory chain; silencing; vitamin D receptor.