Immunomodulatory Effects of Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Beyond

Front Immunol. 2019 Nov 22;10:2739. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02739. eCollection 2019.

Abstract

In addition to its role in calcium homeostasis and bone formation, a modulatory role of the active form of vitamin D on cells of the immune system, particularly T lymphocytes, has been described. The effects of vitamin D on the production and action of several cytokines has been intensively investigated in recent years. In this connection, deficiency of vitamin D has been associated with several autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), Hashimoto Thyroiditis (HT), and multiple sclerosis (MS). In a successful pregnancy, the maternal immune response needs to adapt to accommodate the semiallogeneic fetus. Disturbances in maternal tolerance are implicated in infertility and pregnancy complications such as miscarriages (RM) and preeclampsia (PE). It is well-known that a subset of T lymphocytes, regulatory T cells (Tregs) exhibit potent suppressive activity, and have a crucial role in curtailing the destructive response of the immune system during pregnancy, and preventing autoimmune diseases. Interestingly, vitamin D deficiency is common in pregnant women, despite the widespread use of prenatal vitamins, and adverse pregnancy outcomes such as RM, PE, intrauterine growth restriction have been linked to hypovitaminosis D during pregnancy. Research has shown that autoimmune diseases have a significant prevalence within the female population, and women with autoimmune disorders are at higher risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes. Provocatively, dysregulation of T cells plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity, and adverse pregnancy outcomes where these pathologies are also associated with vitamin D deficiency. This article reviews the immunomodulatory role of vitamin D in autoimmune diseases and pregnancy. In particular, we will describe the role of vitamin D from conception until delivery, including the health of the offspring. This review highlights an observational study where hypovitaminosis D was correlated with decreased fertility, increased disease activity, placental insufficiency, and preeclampsia in women with APS.

Keywords: antiphospholipid antibodies; autoimmunity; fetal origin of adult disease; placenta; pregnancy; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / immunology*
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications / immunology*
  • Vitamin D / immunology*
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / immunology

Substances

  • Immunologic Factors
  • Vitamin D