Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the onset of diabetes. This review summarizes the role of Vitamin D in maintaining the normal release of insulin by the pancreatic beta cells (β-cells). Diabetes is initiated by the onset of insulin resistance. The β-cells can overcome this resistance by releasing more insulin, thus preventing hyperglycaemia. However, as this hyperactivity increases, the β-cells experience excessive Ca2+ and reactive oxygen species (ROS) signalling that results in cell death and the onset of diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to both the initial insulin resistance and the subsequent onset of diabetes caused by β-cell death. Vitamin D acts to reduce inflammation, which is a major process in inducing insulin resistance. Vitamin D maintains the normal resting levels of both Ca2+ and ROS that are elevated in the β-cells during diabetes. Vitamin D also has a very significant role in maintaining the epigenome. Epigenetic alterations are a feature of diabetes by which many diabetes-related genes are inactivated by hypermethylation. Vitamin D acts to prevent such hypermethylation by increasing the expression of the DNA demethylases that prevent hypermethylation of multiple gene promoter regions of many diabetes-related genes. What is remarkable is just how many cellular processes are maintained by Vitamin D. When Vitamin D is deficient, many of these processes begin to decline and this sets the stage for the onset of diseases such as diabetes.
Keywords: Vitamin D; calcium; diabetes.
© 2017 The Author(s); published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society.