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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2015 Nov;53(5):664-75. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2014-0356OC.

The effects of in utero vitamin D deficiency on airway smooth muscle mass and lung function.

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  • 11 Telethon Kids Institute, the University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; and.
  • 22 School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.


We have previously demonstrated increased airway smooth muscle (ASM) mass and airway hyperresponsiveness in whole-life vitamin D-deficient female mice. In this study, we aimed to uncover the molecular mechanisms contributing to altered lung structure and function. RNA was extracted from lung tissue of whole-life vitamin D-deficient and -replete female mice, and gene expression patterns were profiled by RNA sequencing. The data showed that genes involved in embryonic organ development, pattern formation, branching morphogenesis, Wingless/Int signaling, and inflammation were differentially expressed in vitamin D-deficient mice. Network analysis suggested that differentially expressed genes were connected by the hubs matrix metallopeptidase 9; NF-κ light polypeptide gene enhancer in B cells inhibitor, α; epidermal growth factor receptor; and E1A binding protein p300. Given our findings that developmental pathways may be altered, we investigated if the timing of vitamin D exposure (in utero vs. postnatal) had an impact on lung health outcomes. Gene expression was measured in in utero or postnatal vitamin D-deficient mice, as well as whole-life vitamin D-deficient and -replete mice at 8 weeks of age. Baseline lung function, airway hyperresponsiveness, and airway inflammation were measured and lungs fixed for lung structure assessment using stereological methods and quantification of ASM mass. In utero vitamin D deficiency was sufficient to increase ASM mass and baseline airway resistance and alter lung structure. There were increased neutrophils but decreased lymphocytes in bronchoalveolar lavage. Expression of inflammatory molecules S100A9 and S100A8 was mainly increased in postnatal vitamin D-deficient mice. These observations suggest that in utero vitamin D deficiency can alter lung structure and function and increase inflammation, contributing to symptoms in chronic diseases, such as asthma.


RNA sequencing; airway remodeling; inflammation; mouse model; vitamin D

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