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Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Aug;25(4):617-32. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2011.04.009.

Vitamin D in autoimmune, infectious and allergic diseases: a vital player?

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Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Endocrinology, Catholic University Leuven, Herestraat 49, Leuven, Belgium.


Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that is acquired via diet or synthesized in the skin upon UV exposure and needs subsequent hydroxylation steps to become activated as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. While widely known for its role in maintaining bone health, vitamin D receptors have also been identified in different immune cell types. Many immune cells can also convert vitamin D into its bioactive form, thus enhancing the locally available concentrations to those required for the immunomodulatory effects of vitamin D. In this review, we summarize the genetic and epidemiologic data potentially linking vitamin D to autoimmune, infectious and allergic diseases. We also discuss how vitamin D influences the immune responses in each of those conditions based on the data generated using patient samples or preclinical models of each of these diseases.

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