Human promyelocytic leukaemia cells (HL-60) can be induced to differentiate into mature granulocytes in vitro by 1 alpha,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol [1 alpha,25(OH)2D3], the active form of cholecalciferol. The differentiation-associated properties, such as phagocytosis and C3 rosette formation, were induced by as little as 0.12 nM-1 alpha,25(OH)2D3, and, at 12 nM, about half of the cells exhibited differentiation on day 3 of incubation. Concomitantly the viable cell number was decreased to less than half of the control. Among various derivatives of cholecalciferol examined, 1 alpha,25(OH)2D3 and 1 alpha,24R-dihydroxycholecalciferol were the most potent in inducing differentiation, followed successively by 1 alpha,24S-dihydroxycholecalciferol, 1 alpha-hydroxycholecalciferol, 25-hydroxycholecalciferol and 24R,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol. A cytosol protein specifically bound to 1 alpha,25 (OH)2D3 was found in HL-60 cells. Its physical properties closely resembled those found in such target tissues as intestine and parathyroid glands. 1 alpha,25(OH)2D3 bound to the cytosol receptor was transferred quantitatively to the chromatin fraction. The specificity of various derivatives of cholecalciferol in inducing differentiation was well correlated with that of their association with the cytosol receptor. These results are compatible with the hypothesis that the active form of cholecalciferol induces differentiation of human myeloid leukaemia cells by a mechanism similar to that proposed for the classical concept of steroid hormone action.

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