Our understanding of vitamin D metabolism and biological effects has grown exponentially in recent years and it has become clear that vitamin D has extensive immunomodulatory effects. The active vitamin D generating enzyme, 1α-hydroxylase, is expressed by the airway epithelium, alveolar macrophages, dendritic cells, and lymphocytes indicating that active vitamin D can be produced locally within the lungs. Vitamin D generated in tissues is responsible for many of the immunomodulatory actions of vitamin D. The effects of vitamin D within the lungs include increased secretion of the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin, decreased chemokine production, inhibition of dendritic cell activation, and alteration of T-cell activation. These cellular effects are important for host responses against infection and the development of allergic lung diseases like asthma. Epidemiological studies do suggest that vitamin D deficiency predisposes to viral respiratory tract infections and mycobacterial infections and that vitamin D may play a role in the development and treatment of asthma. Randomized, placebo-controlled trials are lacking but ongoing.
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