We examined the effects of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25-(OH)2D3], 25- hydroxyvitamin D3 (25OHD3), and vitamin D3 on human keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation in a serum-free or defined culture system. Concentrations greater than 10-8 M 1,25-(OH)2D3 or 10-7 M 25(OH)2D3 caused marked inhibition of cell growth. Growth inhibition with high doses of 1,25-(OH)2D3 was not stringent, but was mainly exerted in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. Early release from the cell cycle block restored the proliferation of human keratinocytes. The calcium concentration in the medium had no significant effect on the antiproliferative action of 1,25-(OH)2D3, 25OHD3, and vitamin D3. We also show that human keratinocyte proliferation is enhanced at doses of 1,25-(OH)2D3 and 25OHD2D3 of 10-9 M or less. Enhanced proliferation of human keratinocytes with physiological concentrations of 1,25-(OH)2D3 could only be shown in fully defined medium that contained no vitamin D3, related sterols, or bovine pituitary extract. Human keratinocyte differentiation was enhanced with higher doses of 1,25- (OH)2D3 when cells were grown in the presence of high calcium concentrations. These studies demonstrate that the lower, physiological concentrations of vitamin D3 metabolites are capable of stimulating the proliferation of epidermal keratinocytes grown under selected conditions that eliminate confounding or unidentified medium culture factors. Vitamin D3 metabolites are shown to exert mitogenic trophic effects in cultured human epithelial cells similar to their established activities in vivo.
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