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Infect Immun. 2014 Jun;82(6):2585-94. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01814-14. Epub 2014 Mar 31.

Vitamin d deficiency reduces the immune response, phagocytosis rate, and intracellular killing rate of microglial cells.

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Department of Geriatrics, Evangelisches Krankenhaus Göttingen-Weende, Göttingen, Germany.


Meningitis and meningoencephalitis caused by Escherichia coli are associated with high rates of mortality and neurological sequelae. A high prevalence of neurological disorders has been observed in geriatric populations at risk of hypovitaminosis D. Vitamin D has potent effects on human immunity, including induction of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and suppression of T-cell proliferation, but its influence on microglial cells is unknown. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of vitamin D deficiency on the phagocytosis rate, intracellular killing, and immune response of murine microglial cultures after stimulation with the Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists tripalmitoyl-S-glyceryl-cysteine (TLR1/2), poly(I·C) (TLR3), lipopolysaccharide (TLR4), and CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (TLR9). Upon stimulation with high concentrations of TLR agonists, the release of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) was decreased in vitamin D-deficient compared to that in vitamin D-sufficient microglial cultures. Phagocytosis of E. coli K1 after stimulation of microglial cells with high concentrations of TLR3, -4, and -9 agonists and intracellular killing of E. coli K1 after stimulation with high concentrations of all TLR agonists were lower in vitamin D-deficient microglial cells than in the respective control cells. Our observations suggest that vitamin D deficiency may impair the resistance of the brain against bacterial infections.

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