In the past few decades, various novel actions of vitamin D have been discovered. The mechanism of action of calcitriol or vitamin D is mediated by the Vitamin D receptor (VDR), a subfamily of nuclear receptors, which acts as a transcription factor in the target cells after formation of a heterodimer with the retinoid X receptor (RXR). As the VDR has been found in virtually all cell types, vitamin D exerts multiple actions on different tissues. Vitamin D has important immunomodulatory actions, which includes enhancement of the innate immune system and inhibition of the adaptative immune responses. These actions are associated with an increase in production of interleukin (IL)-4 by T helper (Th)-2 lymphocytes and the up-regulation of regulatory T lymphocytes. Vitamin D can regulate the immune responses in secondary lymphoid organs as well as in target organs through a number of mechanisms. Vitamin D inhibits the expression of APC cytokines, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, IL-12, and tissue necrosis factor- α (TNF-α) and decreases the expression of a set of major histocompatibility complex (MCH) class II cell surface proteins in macrophages. Vitamin D also inhibits B cell differentiation and antibody production. These actions reflect an important role of Vitamin D in balancing the immune system.
Part of the book: Vitamin D