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Vitamin D Regulates Steroidogenesis and Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein-1 (IGFBP-1) Production in Human Ovarian Cells. Grishma Parikh 1 , Miroslava Varadinova 1 , Pauline Suwandhi 1 , Takako Araki 1 , Zev Rosenwaks 2 , Leonid Poretsky 1 , Donna Seto-Young 1.

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Vitamin D Regulates Steroidogenesis and Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein-1 (IGFBP-1) Production in Human Ovarian Cells

Grishma Parikh1, Miroslava Varadinova1, Pauline Suwandhi1, Takako Araki1, Zev Rosenwaks2, Leonid Poretsky1, Donna Seto-Young1

  • G.J. Friedman Diabetes Institute and Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY, 10003

  • Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021



  • Objective: Vitamin D receptor (VDR) is expressed in both animal and human ovarian tissue, however, the role of vitamin D in human ovarian steroidogenesis is unknown.

  • Methods: Cultured human ovarian cells were incubated in tissue culture medium supplemented with appropriate substrates, with or without 50 pM-150 pM or 50 nM150 nM of 1,25-(OH)2D3, and in the presence or absence of insulin. Progesterone, testosterone, estrone, estradiol and IGFBP-1 concentrations in conditioned tissue culture medium were measured.

  • Results: Vitamin D receptor was present in human ovarian cells. 1,25-(OH)2D3stimulated progesterone production by 13% (p<0.001), estradiol production by 9% (p<0.02) and estrone production by 21% (p<0.002). Insulin and 1,25-(OH)2D3 acted synergistically to increase estradiol production by 60% (p<0.005). 1,25-(OH)2D3, alone stimulated IGFBP-1 production by 24% (p<0.001), however, in the presence of insulin, 1,25-(OH)2D3 enhanced insulin-induced inhibition of IGFBP-1 production by 13% (p<0.009).

  • Conclusions: Vitamin D stimulates ovarian steroidogenesis and IGFBP-1 production in human ovarian cells likely acting via vitamin D receptor. Insulin and vitamin D synergistically stimulate estradiol production. Vitamin D also enhances inhibitory effect of insulin on IGFBP-1 production.



  • 1, 25 (OH)2 vitamin D is the active form of vitamin D. Although its primary role is to regulate calcium and phosphorus metabolism recently many other actions of vitamin D have been identified.

  • Effects of vitamin D are mediated through vitamin D receptor, a member of nuclear receptor super family of ligand-activated transcription factors.

  • Although presence of vitamin D receptor in human ovary has been reported in one study (6), this finding has not been confirmed and the role of vitamin D, if any, in human ovarian function is not known.

Goals of the study

Goals of the Study

  • Confirm presence of vitamin D receptor in human ovarian cells

  • Examine the effects of vitamin D on regulation of steroid hormone and IGFBP-1 production in human ovarian cell systems.

  • Examine interaction of Vitamin D and insulin in regulation of ovarian steroidogenesis and IGFBP-1 production.

Materials and methods

Materials and Methods

Mixed ovarian cell culture

  • Mixed ovarian cell culture system was developed as previously described

  • They contain theca, stroma and granulosa cells

  • These cells are hormonally active

    Granulosa cell cluture

  • The cells obtained during IVF is purified on percoll gradient as described previously

Materials and methods cont

Materials and Methods (Cont.)

  • Approximately 5×104 cells were incubated for 48 hours at 37° c in 5% CO2 at 90% humidity in M199 supplemented with 10% FBS, gentamicin and amphotericin

  • After 48hrs, the cells were further incubated with M199 supplemented with 2% FBS for 24 hrs

  • The cells were incubated for 18 hours in presence or absence of 1,25-(OH)2D3 (50-150pM or 50-150nM ) alone or with insulin (10, 102, 103ng/ml) in the presence or absence of appropriate substrate with M199 and 2% FBS

  • 30µM pregnenole, 30µM dehydro-epiandrosterone, 3µM testosterone or 3µM androstenedione were used as substrate respectively for measuring progesterone, testosterone, estradiole and estrone production

  • Progesteorone and testosterone production in tissue culture media were measured using radioimmunoassay (RIA) (Diagnostic Systems Laboratories, Inc. Webster, TX)

  • Estradiole and estrone production in tissue culture media is measured using Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA) (ALPCO Diagnostics, Salem, NH)

Materials and methods cont1

Materials and Methods (Cont.)

  • The total RNA was isolated using the RNAqueous-4PCR kit as manufacturer’s recommendations (Ambion Inc., Austin, Texas).

  • GeneAmp EZ rTth RNA PCR kit with specific VDR primer was used for reverse transcription and amplification of specific DNA sequence by RT-PCR reaction.

  • The cDNA was separated on 2.5% agarose gel in TBE buffer (89 mM Tris, pH 8.3, 89 mM boric acid and 2 mM EDTA). The agarose gel was stained with 2 mg/ml ethidium bromide and DNA bands were visualized on the UV transilluminator.

  • One-way analysis of variance was used to compare mean values in the presence and absence of 1,25-(OH)2 vitamin D3

Representative rt pcr analysis of effects of 1 25 oh 2 d 3 on vitamin d receptor mrna expression

Mixed Ovarian Cell Culture

1,25 (OH)2 vitamin D3M199

pM 0 50 100 150

nM 0 50 100 150

Vit D receptor


Representative RT-PCR Analysis of Effects of 1,25-(OH)2D3on Vitamin D Receptor mRNA Expression

Fig. 1.1,25-(OH)2D3 at concentrations of 0-150 pM or 0-150 nM had no effect on expression of vitamin D receptor mRNA whether the cells were incubated in the vitamin D-free MEM Eagle medium (fig. 2) or M199 medium which contains 250 nM vitamin D2.



Granulosa Cell Culture

1,25 (OH)2 vitamin D3MEM M199

pM 0 50 100 150 0 50 100 150

Vit D receptor

Vit D 1-a-


28s rRNA

18s rRNA

Representative RT-PCR Analysis of Effects of 1,25-(OH)2D3on Vitamin D Receptor and 1-a-Hydroxylase mRNA, 28s rRNA and 18s rRNA Expression

Fi.g. 2. mRNA expression of 1-a-hydroxylase, the enzyme that converts 25-(OH) D to its active form 1,25-(OH)2D, was absent in the granulosa cell cultures

The amount of mRNA used for each set of conditions was similar when examined by mRNA expression of house protein b-actin or 28s rRNA or 18s rRNA


Effect of 1,25-(OH)2D3 on Steroid Hormone Production in Mixed Ovarian Cells and Granulosa Cell Cultures

Fig 3. 1,25-(OH)2D3 increased progesterone production in mixed ovarian cell culture by 13% compared to control, but had no significant effect on testosterone production (A)

1,25-(OH)2D3 stimulated estradiol or estrone production in purified granulosa cell culture by up to 6% and up to 21% compared to control, respectively (B).

Interaction of 1 25 oh 2 d 3 with insulin on estradiol production

Interaction of 1,25-(OH)2D3 with Insulin on Estradiol Production

Fig. 4. In the granulosa cell culture, insulin stimulated estradiol production by 13% (p<0.04). 1,25-(OH)2D3 acted synergistically with insulin to increase estradiol production by up to 50% (p<0.001)

In contrast, insulin and 1,25-(OH)2D3 had no significant synergistic effect on progesterone, testosterone or estrone production (data not shown).

Effect of 1 25 oh 2 d 3 on igfbp 1 production in granulosa cell cultures

Effect of 1,25-(OH)2D3 on IGFBP-1 Production in Granulosa Cell Cultures

Fig. 5.1,25-(OH)2D3 increased IGFBP-1 production by up to 24% compared to control (p<0.001) in purified granulosa cells.

Synergistic effects of 1 25 oh 2 d 3 with insulin on igfbp 1 production

Synergistic Effects of 1,25-(OH)2D3 with insulin on IGFBP-1 production

Fig. 6. In the presence of insulin, 1,25-(OH)2D3, enhanced insulin-induced inhibition of IGFBP-1 production by 13% (p<0.001).



  • There are several animal studies suggesting the importance of vitamin D in reproduction.

  • Presence of vitamin D receptor in human ovarian tissue was demonstrated in one study but has not been confirmed (8).

  • We confirmed that vitamin D receptor is present in the human ovary and, for the first time, described the direct effect of 1,25-(OH)2D3 on steroid hormone production.

  • We demonstrated that, under conditions of our experiments, 1,25-(OH)2D3 stimulated estrogen and progesterone production in human ovarian cells, but had no effect on the testosterone production.

Discussion cont

Discussion (Cont.)

  • Stimulation of aromatase activity by 1,25-(OH)2D3 in the human skin fibroblasts has been previously demonstrated (9). Our finding of increased estrogen production in the presence of 1,25-(OH)2D3 may be explained by augmentation of aromatase activity by 1,25-(OH)2D3 in the human ovary.

  • 1,25-(OH)2D3 had no significant effect on steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), 3-b-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3-bHSD) or aromatase mRNA expression (data not shown).

Discussion cont1

Discussion (Cont.)

  • Our results also demonstrate that 1,25-(OH)2D3 acted synergistically with insulin to stimulate estradiol production.

  • The mechanism of this synergism remains unknown. Increased insulin sensitivity in the presence of vitamin D has been described in the studies of glycemic control (10). Therefore in the ovary, vitamin D may be acting as an insulin sensitizer.

Discussion cont2

Discussion (Cont.)

  • IGFBP-1 is one member of IGFBP family whose production is regulated by insulin. IGFBP-1 production is regulated by insulin and IGF-I.

  • In granulosa cells system, insulin and IGF-1 inhibit IGFBP-1 production, similar to their effects in the liver (7).

  • In this study we examined IGFBP-1 production in the presence of vitamin D and insulin to determine whether, similar to its effect on steroidogenesis, vitamin D exerts insulin-sensitizing effect on IGFBP-1 production in human ovarian cells.

  • Our studies demonstrated that vitamin D and insulin synergistically enhanced inhibition of IGFBP-1 production, although vitamin D, when used alone, stimulated IGFBP-1 production.

  • In summary, vitamin D has both an independent and an insulin-sensitizing effect on IGFBP-1 production in human ovarian cells and these effects are opposite in direction. Mechanisms of this interesting phenomenon need to be investigated further.



  • Vitamin D stimulates production of progesterone, estrone and estradiol in cultured human ovarian cells both independently and, in case of estradiol, synergistically with insulin

  • Vitamin D stimulates IGFBP-1 production when used alone. When used with insulin, however, vitamin D enhances insulin-induced inhibition of IGFBP-1 production in cultured human ovarian cells



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  • This work was supported in part by

    • Gerald J. and Dorothy Friedman Foundation

    • Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program of the New York State Department of Health

    • Chinese American Medical Society & Chinese American Independent Practice Association

    • Thanks to Scandinavia Foundation

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