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Scientific Reports


The breakdown of the intestinal barrier is a common manifestation of many diseases. Recent evidence suggests that vitamin D and its receptor VDR may regulate intestinal barrier function. Claudin-2 is a tight junction protein that mediates paracellular water transport in intestinal epithelia, rendering them "leaky". Using whole body VDR(-/-) mice, intestinal epithelial VDR conditional knockout (VDR(ΔIEC)) mice, and cultured human intestinal epithelial cells, we demonstrate here that the CLDN2 gene is a direct target of the transcription factor VDR. The Caudal-Related Homeobox (Cdx) protein family is a group of the transcription factor proteins which bind to DNA to regulate the expression of genes. Our data showed that VDR-enhances Claudin-2 promoter activity in a Cdx1 binding site-dependent manner. We further identify a functional vitamin D response element (VDRE) 5΄-AGATAACAAAGGTCA-3΄ in the Cdx1 site of the Claudin-2 promoter. It is a VDRE required for the regulation of Claudin-2 by vitamin D. Absence of VDR decreased Claudin-2 expression by abolishing VDR/promoter binding. In vivo, VDR deletion in intestinal epithelial cells led to significant decreased Claudin-2 in VDR(-/-) and VDR(ΔIEC) mice. The current study reveals an important and novel mechanism for VDR by regulation of epithelial barriers.



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