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Vitamin D and the Immune System
  1. Cynthia Aranow, MD
  1. From the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY.
  1. Received March 2, 2011.
  2. Accepted for publication March 21, 2011.
  3. Reprints: Cynthia Aranow, MD, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, 350 Community Drive, Manhasset, NY 11030. E-mail: caranow{at}
  4. Supported by National Institutes of Health Grant AI0563626 and in part by a grant from the National Center for Research Resources (R13 RR023236).


It is now clear that vitamin D has important roles in addition to its classic effects on calcium and bone homeostasis. As the vitamin D receptor is expressed on immune cells (B cells, T cells, and antigen-presenting cells), and these immunologic cells are all capable of synthesizing the active vitamin D metabolite, vitamin D has the capability of acting in an autocrine manner in a local immunologic milieu. Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and an increased susceptibility to infection. As immune cells in autoimmune diseases are responsive to the ameliorative effects of vitamin D, the beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D-deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond the effects on bone and calcium homeostasis.

Key Words
  • vitamin D
  • autoimmunity
  • innate immunity
  • adaptive immunity

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