Tavera-Mendoza, L. E.,Westerling, T.,Libby, E.,Marusyk, A.,Cato, L.,Cassani, R.,Cameron, L. A.,Ficarro, S. B.,Marto, J. A.,Klawitter, J.,Brown, M.

Women in North America have a one in eight lifetime risk of developing breast cancer (BC), and a significant proportion of these individuals will develop recurrent BC and will eventually succumb to the disease. Metastatic, therapy-resistant BC cells are refractory to cell death induced by multiple stresses. Here, we document that the vitamin D receptor (VDR) acts as a master transcriptional regulator of autophagy. Activation of the VDR by vitamin D induces autophagy and an autophagic transcriptional signature in BC cells that correlates with increased survival in patients; strikingly, this signature is present in the normal mammary gland and is progressively lost in patients with metastatic BC. A number of epidemiological studies have shown that sufficient vitamin D serum levels might be protective against BC. We observed that dietary vitamin D supplementation in mice increases basal levels of autophagy in the normal mammary gland, highlighting the potential of vitamin D as a cancer-preventive agent. These findings point to a role of vitamin D and the VDR in modulating autophagy and cell death in both the normal mammary gland and BC cells.