Phytoecdysteroids are plant steroids with identical or analogue structures to the molting hormone in arthropods. The ecdysteroids exert several beneficial effects on mammals, from which the most cited and deeply examined one is the increase of muscle size and strength. This shows similarities with the mode of action of the androgenic steroids but the ecdysteroids do not bind to the cytoplasmic/nuclear receptor of the mammalian steroids. These findings led to the hypothesis that ecdysteroids possibly bind to membrane bound receptors and they are likely to influence signal transduction pathways. Probably because of their closely related chemical structures, ecdysteroids exert some similar effects in vertebrates to those of the hormone 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D) which is produced in the kidney from 25- hydroxyvitamin D3, after being converted in the liver from Vitamin D3. 1,25D generates biological responses via both genomic and rapid, nongenomic mechanisms. Structure-activity relationship studies with different Vitamin D analogues could open the possibility to show that the two ways of action (genomic and nongenomic) can be influenced separately. The connection between the Vitamin D status and muscle function is already well-described in clinical studies, and several efforts have been made to evaluate the effect of Vitamin D deficiency or supplementation on muscle morphological changes and the underlying molecular mechanisms. This paper aims to summarize the main structural commonalities between the ecdysteroids, 1,25D and other Vitamin D analogues. The similarities in their effects and pathways that might be involved in the mechanism of action of these compounds will also be discussed.
Keywords: Ecdysteroid, vitamin D analogues, vitamin D receptor, alternative ligand binding pocket, conformational ensemble model
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