The Role of Vitamin D in the Immune System as a Pro-survival Molecule

Clin Ther. 2017 May;39(5):894-916. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2017.03.021. Epub 2017 Apr 21.


Purpose: Vitamin D is a fascinating and attractive molecule that has gained particular attention in medicine in recent years. Its immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory potential might resemble the activity of many nature-derived molecules (eg, flavonoids), but its role in biology was selected during a long evolutionary pathway to dampen the damaging effect of cell stress response and of the immune reaction. In this sense, this molecule can be considered an ancient hormone that serves, in its primary role, as a pro-survival agent. The goal of this review was to elucidate this topic.

Methods: The article reviews current literature on the field, focusing on issues regarding the role of vitamin D in immunity.

Findings: Vitamin D participates in the survival machinery used by the cell, and in particular it plays a major role in synchronizing calcium oscillatory signaling to allow cell autophagy or apoptosis during a stress response.

Implications: Vitamin D should be better highlighted in its molecular action and vitamin D receptor genomics to conceive a more suited therapeutic supplementation protocol in clinics.

Keywords: cell survival; immunity; mitochondria; redox signaling; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology*
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D