Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Todd Porter


7-Dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) is the substrate of 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase (DHCR7) in the cholesterol synthesis pathway. Keratinocytes in human skin possess the enzymes necessary for cholesterol synthesis but are also responsible for vitamin D3 synthesis from 7-DHC by exposure to UVB irradiation. It has been well established that DHCR7 is regulated by the SREBP pathway in the regulation of cholesterol synthesis, but little is known about the regulation of DHCR7 by the vitamin D pathway. In this study, the regulation of DHCR7 activity by vitamin D was explored. Treatment of adult human epidermal keratinocyte (HEKa) cells with vitamin D3 resulted in a rapid decrease in DHCR7 activity which was not due to changes in the amount of enzyme present. This suppression of activity was observed only in HEKa cells, a primary cell line cultured from normal human skin, and not in an immortalized skin cell line (HaCaT cells) nor in two liver-derived hepatoma cell lines. Because vitamin D3 treatment of HEKa cells did not change the content of lanosterol nor 7-DHC, these results suggest that vitamin D3 rapidly down-regulates the entire cholesterolgenesis pathway, presumably at a very early step in the pathway. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3, the first metabolite and circulating form of vitamin D3, had a lesser effect on DHCR7 activity, while 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, the activated form of the vitamin, had no effect on DHCR7, indicating that the vitamin D receptor is not involved. The decrease in DHCR7 activity was due neither to the dephosphorylation of the enzyme, an established mechanism of inactivation, nor to direct inhibition by vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 markedly inhibited proliferation and induced differentiation of HEKa cells, suggesting a possible role for hedgehog signaling in the decrease in DHCR7 activity.