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J Immunol. 2009 Nov 1;183(9):5458-67. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803217.

1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 and IL-2 combine to inhibit T cell production of inflammatory cytokines and promote development of regulatory T cells expressing CTLA-4 and FoxP3.

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  • 1Medical Research Council Centre for Immune Regulation, School of Immunity and Infection, Institute of Biomedical Research, University of Birmingham Medical School, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


The active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1,25(OH)(2)D(3)), has potent immunomodulatory properties that have promoted its potential use in the prevention and treatment of infectious disease and autoimmune conditions. A variety of immune cells, including macrophages, dendritic cells, and activated T cells express the intracellular vitamin D receptor and are responsive to 1,25(OH)(2)D(3.) Despite this, how 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) regulates adaptive immunity remains unclear and may involve both direct and indirect effects on the proliferation and function of T cells. To further clarify this issue, we have assessed the effects of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) on human CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells. We observed that stimulation of CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells in the presence of 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) inhibited production of proinflammatory cytokines including IFN- gamma, IL-17, and IL-21 but did not substantially affect T cell division. In contrast to its inhibitory effects on inflammatory cytokines, 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) stimulated expression of high levels of CTLA-4 as well as FoxP3, the latter requiring the presence of IL-2. T cells treated with 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) could suppress proliferation of normally responsive T cells, indicating that they possessed characteristics of adaptive regulatory T cells. Our results suggest that 1,25(OH)(2)D(3) and IL-2 have direct synergistic effects on activated T cells, acting as potent anti-inflammatory agents and physiologic inducers of adaptive regulatory T cells.

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