Vitamin D3 is known to induce regulatory T (Treg) cells by rendering antigen-presenting cells tolerogenic, its direct effect on human naturally occurring Treg cells is unclear. Here, we investigated if and how 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25(OH)2D3] can directly affect the proliferation and function of human naturally occurring Treg cells in vitro. First, we demonstrated that these Treg cells express vitamin D receptors that were up-regulated following anti-CD3/CD28-bead stimulation. 1,25(OH)2D3 inhibited proliferation of Treg cells even when exogenous interleukin-2 was provided. Treg cells were more susceptible to the inhibitory effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 than conventional T cells(.) 1,25(OH)2D3 neither affected the anergic state nor the suppressive function of Treg cells but induced a subtle increase in interleukin-10-secreting cells. The cell-division-inhibiting effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 on Treg cells was also demonstrated in vivo by supplementing vitamin D-deficient HIV-1-infected patients with 2000 IU cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Increased serum 1,25(OH)2D3 levels were associated with a drop in the number and percentage of Treg cells, which may be attributed to a decrease in the proliferating Foxp3+ Treg cell population. In conclusion, 1,25(OH)2D3 directly affects Treg cell growth and promotes interleukin-10 production without apparent effects on activation status and suppressive phenotype whereas in vivo, high serum 1,25(OH)2D3 levels are associated with reduced Treg cell proliferation and a reduced number of Treg cells.
© 2011 The Authors. Immunology © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.