Vitamin D receptor induces oxidative stress to promote esophageal squamous cell carcinoma proliferation via the p53 signaling pathway

Heliyon. 2023 Dec 23;10(1):e23832. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e23832. eCollection 2024 Jan 15.


Background: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is a common pathological esophageal cancer with poor prognosis. Vitamin D deficiency reportedly occurs in ESCC patients, and this is related to single nucleotide polymorphism of vitamin D receptor (VDR).

Objective: We investigated the effect of VDR on ESCC proliferation, invasion, and metastasis and its potential mechanism.

Methods: ESCC and normal tissues were collected from 20 ESCC patients. The ESCC tissue microarray contained 116 pairs of ESCC and normal tissues and 73 single ESCC tissues. VDR expression and its clinicopathological role were determined by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, Western blot, and immunohistochemistry staining. sh-VDR and VDR overexpression were used to validate the effect of VDR on ESCC cell phenotype, and tandem mass tag-based quantitative proteomics and bioinformatics methods identified differential VDR-related proteins. The downstream pathway and regulatory effect were analyzed using ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA). Differentially expressed proteins were verified through parallel reaction monitoring and Western blot. In vivo imaging visualized subcutaneous tumor growth following tail vein injection of VDR-deficient ESCC cells.

Results: High VDR expression was observed in ESCC tissues and cells. Gender, T stage, and TNM stage were related to VDR expression, which was the independent prognostic factor related to ESCC. VDR downregulation repressed ESCC cell proliferation, invasion, and migration in vitro and subcutaneous tumor growth and lung metastases in vivo. The cell phenotype changes were reversed upon VDR upregulation, and differential proteins were mainly enriched in the p53 signaling pathway. TP53 cooperated with ABCG2, APOE, FTH1, GCLM, GPX1, HMOX1, JUN, PRDX5, and SOD2 and may activate apoptosis and inhibit oxidative stress, cell metastasis, and proliferation. TP53 was upregulated after VDR knockdown, and TP53 downregulation reversed VDR knockdown-induced cell phenotype changes.

Conclusions: VDR may inhibit p53 signaling pathway activation and induce ESCC proliferation, invasion, and metastasis by activating oxidative stress.

Keywords: Cell phenotype; Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma; Oxidative stress; TMT proteomics; Tumor formation in nude mice; VDR; p53 signaling pathway.