New insights into the role of the duodenal vitamin D receptor in calcium homeostasis

Hilary Diane Marks, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


It is generally believed that 1,25(OH)2D3, bound to its receptor (VDR) contributes to calcium homeostasis by regulating active calcium absorption in the proximal small intestine. However, studying patients with hereditary vitamin D-resistant rickets (HVDRR) provided investigators with a better understanding of VDR's role in calcium homeostasis. HVDRR patients have inactivating mutations in the VDR, and as a consequence they develop hypocalcemia, hyperparathyroidism and severe rickets. However, these phenotypes can be corrected if the patients are given IV infusions of calcium or dietary calcium. This raises the question of what is the physiological significance of VDR-regulated active calcium absorption if calcium homeostasis can be restored independently of the VDR. In order to distinguish the contribution of VDR in the proximal small intestine to overall calcium homeostasis, I generated transgenic mice expressing the human VDR (hVDR) exclusively in the proximal small intestine of mVDR-/- mice by using an hVDR-expressing transgene driven by the duodenal-specific adenosine deaminase enhancer (hVDR+/mVDR-/-). hVDR+/mVDR-/- mice expressed transcriptionally active hVDR only in the proximal small intestine and responded to 1,25(OH)2D3 by up-regulating expression of TRPV6 and calbindin D9K, genes involved in calcium absorption. Furthermore, ligated duodenal loop assays determined that calcium absorption in hVDR+/mVDR-/- mice was as responsive to 1,25(OH)2D3 as in WT mice. Despite having a functional hVDR in the proximal small intestine, hVDR+/mVDR-/- mice were hypocalcemic, had hyperparathyroidism, and were rachitic when fed a normal rodent diet at weaning, as were the mVDR-/- mice. However, when fed a high calcium, phosphorus, and lactose diet (rescue diet), the hVDR+/mVDR-/- mice responded more effectively than the mVDR-/- mice by down-regulation of parathyroid hormone production and by a greater increase in bone mineralization. Furthermore, when three-month-old rachitic mice were fed a rescue diet for 3 weeks, serum calcium and bone mineral content were normalized in hVDR+/mVDR-/- mice, but not in mVDR-/- mice. In conclusion, hVDR expression enabled young mice to better use the rescue diet than mVDR-/- mice. Expression of transgenic hVDR also protected the ability of older mice to respond to the rescue diet despite the absence of the VDR elsewhere in the intestinal tract. I propose that because hVDR+/mVDR-/- mice responded better than mVDR-/- mice to the rescue diet, it is likely that VDR expression in the proximal small intestine is necessary in nutritional (insufficient dietary calcium) and physiological (age) conditions when passive calcium absorption is inadequate.

Subject Area

Anatomy & physiology

Recommended Citation

Marks, Hilary Diane, "New insights into the role of the duodenal vitamin D receptor in calcium homeostasis" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3256554.