Vitamin D co-regulates cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis, the processes that are disturbed in cancer tissues. It acts through the vitamin D nuclear receptor (VDR) that binds to DNA in the regulatory sequences of the target genes. As the kidney is one of the key organs for vitamin D metabolism and action, we analyzed VDR expression and its DNA binding activity in human renal clear cell cancer. 24 tumors, 24 controls that were excised from the opposite pole of the same kidney and 7 controls originating from kidneys without cancer were examined. Independently of tumor grading neither Northern blots nor immunoblotting demonstrated statistically significant differences of the mean VDR mRNA and protein amounts, respectively, in the cancer as compared to both control types. In contrast, the amount of VDR-DNA complexes was lower in 52.2% of the tumors in comparison to their corresponding controls. After normalization against VDR receptor protein amount in 34.8% of the tumors VDR-DNA binding was at least 3–4 times weaker than in the controls. However, the expression of vitamin D-dependent P21 gene on the mRNA level was not decreased in these cancers. It remains to be elucidated if altered VDR function due to its impaired binding to DNA contributes to the process of tumorigenesis, and what potential vitamin D-dependent mechanisms are involved in this process.

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