Vitamin D receptors in breast cancer cells

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1994;31(2-3):191-202. doi: 10.1007/BF00666153.


1,25-(OH)2-Vitamin D3, the active metabolite of vitamin D, is a secosteroid hormone with known differentiating activity in leukemic cells. Studies have demonstrated the presence of vitamin D receptors (VDR) in a wide range of tissues and cell types. Antiproliferative activity of 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D3 has been documented in osteosarcoma, melanoma, colon carcinoma, and breast carcinoma cells. This study was designed to analyze vitamin D receptor level in breast cancer cells as a marker of differentiation and as a predictor of growth inhibition by 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D3. VDR messenger RNA was found to be present in relatively high levels in well-differentiated cells and in low levels in poorly differentiated cells. All cell lines had detectable VDR mRNA. Radiolabeled ligand binding assay showed a similar pattern. MCF-7 and T47D cells, which express VDR at moderate levels, showed significant growth inhibition by 10(-9) M1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D3 (p < 0.05). MDA-MB-231 cells, which have very low levels of VDR, demonstrated no growth inhibition by 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D3 at concentrations up to 10(-6) M. Based on these results it can be stated that VDR expression is lost with de-differentiation and that receptor is essential for the antiproliferative response to 1,25-(OH)2-vitamin D3.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Calcitriol / pharmacology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / chemistry
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Growth Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / analysis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology*
  • Pleural Effusion / pathology
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / analysis
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Calcitriol