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Cell Host Microbe. 2009 Sep 17;6(3):231-43. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2009.08.004.

Vitamin D3 induces autophagy in human monocytes/macrophages via cathelicidin.

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Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Korea.


Autophagy and vitamin D3-mediated innate immunity have been shown to confer protection against infection with intracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Here, we show that these two antimycobacterial defenses are physiologically linked via a regulatory function of human cathelicidin (hCAP-18/LL-37), a member of the cathelicidin family of antimicrobial proteins. We show that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25D3), the active form of vitamin D, induced autophagy in human monocytes via cathelicidin, which activated transcription of the autophagy-related genes Beclin-1 and Atg5. 1,25D3 also induced the colocalization of mycobacterial phagosomes with autophagosomes in human macrophages in a cathelicidin-dependent manner. Furthermore, the antimycobacterial activity in human macrophages mediated by physiological levels of 1,25D3 required autophagy and cathelicidin. These results indicate that human cathelicidin, a protein that has direct antimicrobial activity, also serves as a mediator of vitamin D3-induced autophagy.

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