The lower risk of some internal cancers at lower latitudes has been linked to greater sun exposure and consequent higher levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR)-produced vitamin D3 (D3). To separate the experimental effects of sunlight and of all forms of D3, a mouse in which UVR does not produce D3 would be useful.
To this end we have generated mice carrying a modified allele of sterol C5-desaturase (Sc5d), the gene encoding the enzyme that converts lathosterol to 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), such that Sc5d expression can be inactivated using the Cre/lox site-specific recombination system. By crossing to mice with tissue-specific expression of Cre or CreER2 (Cre/estrogen receptor), we generated two lines of transgenic mice. One line has constitutive keratinocyte-specific inactivation of Sc5d (Sc5dk14KO). The other line (Sc5dk14KOi) has tamoxifen-inducible keratinocyte-specific inactivation of Sc5d.
Mice deleted for keratinocyte Sc5d lose the ability to increase circulating D3 following UVR exposure of the skin. Thus, unlike in control mice, acute UVR exposure did not affect circulating D3 level in inducible Sc5dk14KOi mice.
Keratinocyte-specific inactivation of Sc5d was proven by sterol measurement in hair – in control animals lathosterol and cholesta-7,24-dien-3β-ol, the target molecules of SC5D in the sterol biosynthetic pathways, together constituted a mean of 10% of total sterols; in the conditional knockout mice these sterols constituted a mean of 56% of total sterols. The constitutive knockout mice had an even greater increase, with lathosterol and cholesta-7,24-dien-3β-ol accounting for 80% of total sterols.
In conclusion, the dominant presence of the 7-DHC precursors in hair of conditional animals and the lack of increased circulating D3 following exposure to UVR reflect attenuated production of the D3 photochemical precursor 7-DHC and, consequently, of D3 itself. These animals provide a useful new tool for investigating the role of D3 in UVR-induced physiological effects and, more broadly, for investigations of the cholesterol synthetic pathway in the skin and other targeted tissues.