1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3) increases synthesis of heat shock proteins in monocytes and U937 cells and protects these cells from thermal injury. We examined whether 1,25-(OH)2D3 would also modulate the susceptibility of U937 cells to H2O2-induced oxidative stress. Cell viability was assessed by trypan blue exclusion and [3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA. Prior incubation for 24 h with 1,25-(OH)2D3 (25 pM or higher) unexpectedly increased H2O2 toxicity. Since cellular Ca2+ may be a mediator of cell injury we investigated effects of altering extracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]e) on 1,25-(OH)2D3-enhanced H2O2 toxicity as well as effects of 1,25-(OH)2D3 and H2O2 on cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]f). Basal [Ca2+]f in medium containing 1.5 mM Ca as determined by fura-2 fluorescence was higher in 1,25-(OH)2D3-pretreated cells than control cells (137 versus 112 nM, P less than 0.005). H2O2 induced a rapid increase in [Ca2+]f (to greater than 300 nM) in both 1,25-(OH)2D3-treated and control cells, which was prevented by a reduction in [Ca2+]e to less than basal [Ca2+]f. The 1,25(OH)2D3-induced increase in H2O2 toxicity was also prevented by preincubation with 1,25-(OH)2D3 in Ca2+-free medium or by exposing the cells to H2O2 in the presence of EGTA. Preexposure of cells to 45 degrees C for 20 min, 4 h earlier, partially prevented the toxic effects of H2O2 particularly in 1,25-(OH)2D3-treated cells, even in the presence of physiological levels of [Ca2+]e. Thus 1,25-(OH)2D3 potentiates H2O2-induced injury probably by increasing cellular Ca2+ stores. The 1,25-(OH)2D3-induced amplification of the heat shock response likely represents a mechanism for counteracting the Ca2+-associated enhanced susceptibility to oxidative injury due to 1,25-(OH)2D3.

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