Expression and regulation of the vitamin D receptor in the zebrafish, Danio rerio

Theodore A. Craig, Stacy Sommer, Caroline R. Sussman, Joseph P. Grande, Rajiv Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Vitamin D and vitamin D metabolites such as 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1α,25(OH)2D3] circulate in the serum of fish. The receptor for 1α,25(OH) 2D3 (VDR) has previously been cloned from fish intestine, and ligand binding assays have shown the presence of the VDR in the gills, intestine, and liver of fish. Using immunohistochemical methods with specific antibodies against the VDR, we now report that the VDR is widely expressed in tissues of the adult male and female zebrafish, Danio rerio, specifically in epithelial cells of gills, tubular cells of the kidney, and absorptive cells in the intestine. Additionally, the VDR is expressed in the skin, the olfactory organ, the retina, brain, and spinal cord. Sertoli cells of the testis, oocytes, acinar cells of the pancreas, hepatocytes, and bile duct epithelial cells express substantial amounts of the receptor. Osteoblast-like cells and chondrocytes also express VDR. Preimmune serum and antiserum preadsorbed with Danio VDR protein fails to detect VDR in the same tissues. The VDR is also present in the developing eye, brain, and otic vesicle of 48- and 96-h postfertilization zebrafish embryos. Parenteral administration of 1α,25(OH)2D3 increases concentrations of VDR in intestinal epithelial cells but not in epithelial cells of the gills. Lithocholic acid, however, does not alter concentrations of VDR after parenteral administration. The data suggest that VDR is widely distributed in tissues of the zebrafish, D. rerio, and is likely to play important roles in epithelial transport, bone, and endocrine function. Furthermore, concentrations of the receptor seem to be regulated by its ligand, 1α,25-dihydroxy vitamin D but not by lithocholic acid. Zebrafish may serve as a useful model in which to assess the function of the VDR in diverse tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1486-1496
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D receptor
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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