Liver vitamin D receptor, CYP2R1, and CYP27A1 expression: relationship with liver histology and vitamin D3 levels in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or hepatitis C virus


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • Supported by research grants from the Italian Ministry of University and Research (PRIN grant 2008), Sapienza University of Rome, and University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome.


Evidence suggests an association between low serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3 [25(OH)D3] levels and the presence and prognosis of liver disease. Vitamin D receptor (VDR) has been widely detected in the liver, but its expression in the course of liver disease has never been investigated. We evaluated the hepatic expression of VDR along with that of vitamin D 25-hydroxylases in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or chronic hepatitis C (CHC) and its relationship with hepatic histological features and serum 25(OH)D3 levels. We evaluated 61 patients (25 NASH and 36 CHC) who had undergone liver biopsy for clinical purposes and 20 subjects without liver disease. Serum 25(OH)D3 was measured via colorimetric assay. Expression of VDR, CYP2R1, and CYP27A1 was evaluated via immunohistochemistry in hepatocytes, cholangiocytes, and liver inflammatory cells. Parenchymal and inflammatory cells from liver biopsies of patients with NASH and CHC expressed VDR, CYP2R1, and CYP27A1. In NASH patients, VDR expression on cholangiocytes was inversely correlated with steatosis severity (P < 0.02), lobular inflammation (P < 0.01), and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease score (P < 0.03). Moreover, expression of CYP2R1 in hepatocytes correlated strongly with VDR positivity on liver inflammatory cells. In CHC subjects, fibrosis stage was associated with low hepatic CYP27A1 expression, whereas portal inflammation was significantly higher in patients with VDR-negative inflammatory cells (P < 0.009) and low VDR expression in hepatocytes (P < 0.03). Conclusion: VDR is widely expressed in the liver and inflammatory cells of chronic liver disease patients and its expression is negatively associated with the severity of liver histology in both NASH and CHC patients. These data suggest that vitamin D/VDR system may play a role in the progression of metabolic and viral chronic liver damage. (HEPATOLOGY 2012;56:2180–2187)