Although Vitamin D is best known as a modulator of calcium homeostasis, it also has immune modulating potential. A protective effect of Vitamin D on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is supported by the reduced risk associated with sun exposure and use of Vitamin D supplements. Moreover, high circulating levels of Vitamin D have been associated with lower risk of MS. To gain more insight into putative regulatory mechanisms of Vitamin D in MS pathogenesis, we studied 132 Hispanic patients with clinically definite MS, 58 with relapsing remitting MS (RR MS) during remission, 34 RR MS patients during relapse, and 40 primary progressive MS cases (PP MS). Sixty healthy individuals matched with respect to place of residence, race/ethnicity, age and gender served as controls. Levels of 25(OH) Vitamin D and 1,25(OH)(2) Vitamin D, measured by ELISA were significantly lower in RR MS patients than in controls. In addition, levels in patients suffering relapses were lower than during remissions. By contrast, PP MS patients showed similar values to controls. Proliferation of both freshly isolated CD4+ T cells and MBP-specific T cells was significantly inhibited by 1,25(OH)(2) Vitamin D. Moreover, activated Vitamin D enhanced the development of IL-10 producing cells, and reduced the number of IL-6 and IL-17 secreting cells. Notably, VDR expression was induced by 1,25(OH)(2) Vitamin D in both activated and resting cells. Interestingly, T cells were able to metabolize 25(OH) Vitamin D into biologically active 1,25(OH)(2) Vitamin D, since T cells express 1α-hydroxylase constitutively. Finally, 1,25(OH)(2) Vitamin D also increased the expression and biological activity of IDO, triggering significant increase in the number of CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells. Collectively, these findings suggest that 1,25(OH)(2) VitaminD plays an important role in T cell homeostasis during the course of MS, suggesting correction of its deficiency may be useful during treatment of the disease.
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