Mechanisms underlying the effect of vitamin D on the immune system

Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 Aug;69(3):286-9. doi: 10.1017/S0029665110001722. Epub 2010 Jun 2.


Vitamin D and the vitamin D receptor (VDR) have been shown to be important regulators of the immune system. In particular, vitamin D and VDR deficiency exacerbates experimental autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD develops due to an immune-mediated attack by pathogenic T-cells that overproduce IL-17 and IFN-gamma and a few regulatory cells. VDR knockout mice have twice as many T-cells making IL-17 and IFN-gamma than wild-type mice. In addition, vitamin D and the VDR are required for normal numbers of regulatory T-cells (iNKT and CD8alphaalpha) that have been shown to suppress experimental IBD. In the absence of vitamin D and the VDR, autoimmunity occurs in the gastrointestinal tract due to increased numbers of IL-17 and IFN-gamma secreting T-cells and a concomitant reduction in regulatory T-cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Intestine, Large / immunology*
  • Intestine, Large / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D / metabolism*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / immunology*


  • Interleukin-17
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Vitamin D