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Exp Dermatol. 2008 Aug;17(8):633-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2008.00768.x. Epub 2008 Jun 28.

The vitamin D pathway: a new target for control of the skin's immune response?

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Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.


The surface of our skin is constantly challenged by a wide variety of microbial pathogens, still cutaneous infections are relatively rare. Within cutaneous innate immunity the production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) is a primary system for protection against infection. Many AMPs can be found on the skin, and these include molecules that were discovered for their antimicrobial properties, and other peptides and proteins first known for activity as chemokines, enzymes, enzyme inhibitors and neuropeptides. Cathelicidins were among the first families of AMPs discovered on the skin. They are now known to have two distinct functions; they have direct antimicrobial activity and will initiate a host cellular response resulting in cytokine release, inflammation and angiogenesis. Dysfunction of cathelicidin is relevant in the pathogenesis of several cutaneous diseases including atopic dermatitis where cathelicidin induction is suppressed, rosacea, where cathelicidin peptides are abnormally processed to forms that induce cutaneous inflammation and a vascular response, and psoriasis, where a cathelicidin peptide can convert self-DNA to a potent stimulus of an autoinflammatory cascade. Recent work has unexpectedly identified vitamin D3 as a major factor involved in the regulation of cathelicidin expression. Therapies targeting the vitamin D3 pathway and thereby cathelicidin may provide new treatment modalities in the management of infectious and inflammatory skin diseases.

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