Open Access Open Badges Research article

Transcriptional effects of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 physiological and supra-physiological concentrations in breast cancer organotypic culture

Cintia Milani1, Maria Lucia Hirata Katayama1, Eduardo Carneiro de Lyra12, JoEllen Welsh3, Laura Tojeiro Campos1, M Mitzi Brentani1, Maria do Socorro Maciel4, Rosimeire Aparecida Roela1, Paulo Roberto del Valle1, João Carlos Guedes Sampaio Góes2, Suely Nonogaki5, Rodrigo Esaki Tamura6 and Maria Aparecida Azevedo Koike Folgueira1*

Author affiliations

1 Disciplina de Oncologia, LIM24, Departamento de Radiologia e Oncologia, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Dr. Arnaldo 455,Sala 4124, São Paulo, SP, 01246-903, Brazil

2 Instituto Brasileiro de Controle do Câncer, IBCC, São Paulo, Brazil

3 Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany, Rensselaer, NY, 12144, USA

4 Hospital do Câncer A. C. Camargo, São Paulo, Brazil

5 Instituto Adolfo Lutz, Centro de Patologia, Núcleo de Patologia Quantitativa, São Paulo, Brazil

6 Post-doctoral fellow, Viral Vectors Laboratory, Instituto do Câncer do Estado de São Paulo, ICESP, São Paulo, Brazil

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Citation and License

BMC Cancer 2013, 13:119  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-119

Published: 15 March 2013



Vitamin D transcriptional effects were linked to tumor growth control, however, the hormone targets were determined in cell cultures exposed to supra physiological concentrations of 1,25(OH)2D3 (50-100nM). Our aim was to evaluate the transcriptional effects of 1,25(OH)2D3 in a more physiological model of breast cancer, consisting of fresh tumor slices exposed to 1,25(OH)2D3 at concentrations that can be attained in vivo.


Tumor samples from post-menopausal breast cancer patients were sliced and cultured for 24 hours with or without 1,25(OH)2D3 0.5nM or 100nM. Gene expression was analyzed by microarray (SAM paired analysis, FDR≤0.1) or RT-qPCR (p≤0.05, Friedman/Wilcoxon test). Expression of candidate genes was then evaluated in mammary epithelial/breast cancer lineages and cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs), exposed or not to 1,25(OH)2D3 0.5nM, using RT-qPCR, western blot or immunocytochemistry.


1,25(OH)2D3 0.5nM or 100nM effects were evaluated in five tumor samples by microarray and seven and 136 genes, respectively, were up-regulated. There was an enrichment of genes containing transcription factor binding sites for the vitamin D receptor (VDR) in samples exposed to 1,25(OH)2D3 near physiological concentration. Genes up-modulated by both 1,25(OH)2D3 concentrations were CYP24A1, DPP4, CA2, EFTUD1, TKTL1, KCNK3. Expression of candidate genes was subsequently evaluated in another 16 samples by RT-qPCR and up-regulation of CYP24A1, DPP4 and CA2 by 1,25(OH)2D3 was confirmed. To evaluate whether the transcripitonal targets of 1,25(OH)2D3 0.5nM were restricted to the epithelial or stromal compartments, gene expression was examined in HB4A, C5.4, SKBR3, MDA-MB231, MCF-7 lineages and CAFs, using RT-qPCR. In epithelial cells, there was a clear induction of CYP24A1, CA2, CD14 and IL1RL1. In fibroblasts, in addition to CYP24A1 induction, there was a trend towards up-regulation of CA2, IL1RL1, and DPP4. A higher protein expression of CD14 in epithelial cells and CA2 and DPP4 in CAFs exposed to 1,25(OH)2D3 0.5nM was detected.


In breast cancer specimens a short period of 1,25(OH)2D3 exposure at near physiological concentration modestly activates the hormone transcriptional pathway. Induction of CYP24A1, CA2, DPP4, IL1RL1 expression appears to reflect 1,25(OH)2D3 effects in epithelial as well as stromal cells, however, induction of CD14 expression is likely restricted to the epithelial compartment.

Breast cancer; Calcitriol; Gene expression; Organotypic culture