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Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 Aug;302(6):401-8. doi: 10.1007/s00403-010-1045-4. Epub 2010 Mar 10.

Control of cutaneous antimicrobial peptides by vitamin D3.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology and Allergy, Klinik und Poliklinik für Dermatologie und Allergologie, Ludwig-Maximilian-University, Frauenlobstr. 9-11, Munich, Germany.


Constant exposure to a wide variety of microbial pathogens represents a major challenge for our skin. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are mediators of cutaneous innate immunity and protect primarily against microbial infections. Cathelicidins were among the first AMPs identified in human skin and recent evidence suggests that they exert a dual role in innate immune defense: At first, due to their antimicrobial activity they kill pathogens directly. In addition, these peptides initiate a potent host response to infection resulting in cytokine release, inflammation and a cellular response. Disturbed cathelicidin expression and function was observed in several common inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis where cathelicidin peptide converts inert self-DNA and self-RNA into an autoimmune stimulus. In atopic dermatitis decreased levels of cathelicidin facilitating microbial superinfections have been discussed. Furthermore, abnormally processed cathelicidin peptides induce inflammation and a vascular response in rosacea. Until recently, the molecular mechanisms underlying cathelicidin regulation were unknown. Recently, the vitamin D3 pathway was identified as the major regulator of cathelicidin expression. Consequently, vitamin D3 entered the spotlight as an immune modulator with impact on both innate and adaptive immunity. Therapies targeting vitamin D3 signaling may provide new approaches for infectious and inflammatory skin diseases by affecting both innate and adaptive immune functions.

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