The TGF-β superfamily comprises pleiotropic cytokines that regulate SMAD and non-SMAD signaling. TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction is known to be involved in tissue fibrosis, including renal fibrosis. Here, we found that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3-bound [1,25(OH)2D 3-bound] vitamin D receptor (VDR) specifically inhibits TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction through direct interaction with SMAD3. In mouse models of tissue fibrosis, 1,25(OH)2D3 treatment prevented renal fibrosis through the suppression of TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction. Based on the structure of the VDR-ligand complex, we generated 2 synthetic ligands. These ligands selectively inhibited TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction without activating VDR-mediated transcription and significantly attenuated renal fibrosis in mice. These results indicate that 1,25(OH) 2D3-dependent suppression of TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction is independent of VDR-mediated transcriptional activity. In addition, these ligands did not cause hypercalcemia resulting from stimulation of the transcriptional activity of the VDR. Thus, our study provides a new strategy for generating chemical compounds that specifically inhibit TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction. Since TGF-β-SMAD signal transduction is reportedly involved in several disorders, our results will aid in the development of new drugs that do not cause detectable adverse effects, such as hypercalcemia.
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