Expression of vitamin D receptor and 25-hydroxyvitamin D3-1 alpha-hydroxylase in normal and malignant human colon
Considerable evidence exists to support the use of vitamin D to prevent and/or treat colorectal cancer. However, the routine use of bioactive vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, is limited by the side effect of toxic hypercalcemia. Recent studies, however, suggest that colonic epithelial cells express 25-hydroxyvitamin D3-1alpha-hydroxylase, an enzyme that converts nontoxic pro-vitamin D, 25-hydroxycholecalciferol [25(OH)D3], to its bioactive form. Yet, nothing is known as to the cellular expression of 1alpha-hydroxylase and the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in the earliest histopathologic structures associated with malignant transformation such as aberrant crypt foci (ACF) and polyps [addressing the possibility of using nontoxic 25(OH)D3 for chemoprevention], nor is anything known as to the expression of these proteins in colorectal cancer as a function of tumor cell differentiation or metastasis [relevant to using 25(OH)D3 for chemotherapy]. In this study, we show that 1alpha-hydroxylase is present at equal high levels in normal colonic epithelium as in ACFs, polyps, and colorectal cancer irrespective of tumor cell differentiation. In contrast, VDR levels were low in normal colonic epithelial cells; were increased in ACFs, polyps, and well-differentiated tumor cells; and then declined as a function of tumor cell de-differentiation. Both 1alpha-hydroxylase and VDR levels were negligible in tumor cells metastasizing to regional lymph nodes. Overall, these data support using 25(OH)D3 for colorectal cancer chemoprevention but suggest that pro-vitamin D is less likely to be useful for colorectal cancer chemotherapy.