Vitamins D3 and D2 have marked but different global effects on gene expression in a rat oligodendrocyte precursor cell line

Manuela Mengozzi, Andrew Hesketh, Giselda Bucca, Pietro Ghezzi, Colin P. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS) but it is unclear whether vitamin D supplementation improves the clinical course of MS, and there is uncertainty about the dose and form of vitamin D (D2 or D3) to be used. The mechanisms underlying the effects of vitamin D in MS are not clear. Vitamin D3 increases the rate of differentiation of primary oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), suggesting that it might help remyelination in addition to modulating the immune response. Here we analyzed the transcriptome of differentiating rat CG4 OPCs treated with vitamin D2 or with vitamin D3 at 24 h and 72 h following onset of differentiation.

Gene expression in differentiating CG4 cells in response to vitamin D2 or D3 was quantified using Agilent DNA microarrays (n = 4 replicates), and the transcriptome data were processed and analysed using the R software environment. Differential expression between the experimental conditions was determined using LIMMA, applying the Benjamini and Hochberg multiple testing correction to p-values, and significant genes were grouped into co-expression clusters by hierarchical clustering. The functional significance of gene groups was explored by pathway enrichment analysis using the clusterProfiler package.

Differentiation alone changed the expression of about 10% of the genes at 72 h compared to 24 h. Vitamin D2 and D3 exerted different effects on gene expression, with D3 influencing 1272 genes and D2 574 at 24 h. The expression of the vast majority of these genes was either not changed in differentiating cells not exposed to vitamin D or followed the same trajectory as the latter. D3-repressed genes were enriched for Gene Ontology (GO) categories including transcription factors and the Notch pathway, while D3-induced genes were enriched for the Ras pathway.

This study shows that vitamin D3, compared with D2, changes the expression of a larger number of genes in OLs. Identification of genes affected by D3 in OLs should help to identify mechanisms mediating its action in MS.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2020


  • Myelination
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Microarrays
  • Cell differentiation
  • Central glia-4


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