No association between vitamin D and β-cell autoimmunity in Finnish and Estonian children

Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2014 Nov;30(8):749-60. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.2550.


Background: Vitamin D has immunomodulatory properties, such as regulation of FOXP3 expression and regulatory T-cell activity. Our aim was to investigate whether plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations associate with the development of β-cell autoimmunity and the transcriptional activity of FOXP3 or vitamin D3 convertase gene (CYP27B1) in CD4+ memory T cells.

Methods: We studied 83 Finnish and 32 Estonian children participating in the DIABIMMUNE and DIPP studies. Twenty-nine Finnish and six Estonian children tested positive for at least one diabetes-associated autoantibody. The plasma concentrations of 25(OH)D and 1,25(OH)₂D were analysed with an enzyme immunoassay. Gene expression of FOXP3 and CYP27B1 in the isolated CD4+ memory T cells was studied with reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Vitamin D status did not differ between subjects positive and negative for β-cell autoantibodies. Finnish children had higher vitamin D status than Estonian children (p < 0.001). FOXP3 expression was higher in Estonian CD4+ memory T-cell samples than in Finnish samples (p < 0.01) even when including in both groups only children with serum 25(OH)D concentrations in the range of 50-80 nmol/L (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: These findings do not support a crucial role of circulating 25(OH)D as a regulator of β-cell autoimmunity or FOXP3 expression.

Keywords: T cells; Vitamin D; autoimmunity; beta-cell; immunoregulation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D 2 / blood*
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase / blood
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase / genetics
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase / metabolism
  • Autoimmunity*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Calcifediol / blood*
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Estonia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / blood
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / immunology*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology*


  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D 2
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 1-alpha-Hydroxylase
  • Calcifediol