Dietary vitamin D3 supplements reduce demyelination in the cuprizone model

PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26262. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026262. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


Vitamin D is emerging as a probably important environmental risk factor in multiple sclerosis, affecting both susceptibility and disease progression. It is not known to what extent this effect is due to a modulation of peripheral lymphocyte function, or to intrathecal effects of vitamin D. We investigated the effect of dietary vitamin D3 content on de/remyelination in the cuprizone model, which is a well established toxic model of demyelination, with no associated lymphocyte infiltration. The mice received diets either deficient of (<50 IU/kg), or supplemented with low (500 IU/kg), high (6200 IU/kg) or very high (12500 IU/kg) amounts of vit D3. Cuprizone (0.2%) was added to the diet for six weeks, starting two weeks after onset of the experimental diets. Mouse brain tissue was histopathologically evaluated for myelin and oligodendrocyte loss, microglia/macrophage activation, and lymphocyte infiltration after six weeks of cuprizone exposure, and two weeks after discontinuation of cuprizone exposure. High and very high doses of vitamin D3 significantly reduced the extent of white matter demyelination (p = 0.004) and attenuated microglia activation (p = 0.001). No differences in the density of oligodendrocytes were observed between the diet groups. Two weeks after discontinuation of cuprizone exposure, remyelination was only detectable in the white matter of mice receiving diets deficient of or with low vitamin D3 content. In conclusion, high dietary doses of vitamin D3 reduce the extent of demyelination, and attenuate microglia activation and macrophage infiltration in a toxic model of demyelination, independent of lymphocyte infiltration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholecalciferol / blood
  • Cholecalciferol / pharmacology*
  • Cuprizone / toxicity*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / immunology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microglia / drug effects
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Myelin Sheath / drug effects
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Cholecalciferol
  • Cuprizone