Vitamin D and molecular actions on the immune system: modulation of innate and autoimmunity
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Vitamin D has received increased attention recently for its pleiotropic actions on many chronic diseases. The importance of vitamin D on the regulation of cells of the immune system has gained increased appreciation over the past decade with the discovery of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and key vitamin D metabolizing enzymes expressed by cells of the immune system. Animal studies, early epidemiologic and clinical studies have supported a potential role for vitamin D in maintaining immune system balance. The hormonal form of vitamin D up-regulates anti-microbial peptides, namely cathelicidin, to enhance clearance of bacteria at various barrier sites and in immune cells. Vitamin D modulates the adaptive immune system by direct effects on T cell activation and on the phenotype and function of antigen-presenting cells (APCs), particularly of DCs. The purpose of this manuscript is to review the molecular and clinical evidence for vitamin D as a modulator of the innate and adaptive immune system.