Non-classical actions of vitamin D were first suggested over 30 years ago when receptors for the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
), were detected in various tissues and cells that are not associated with the regulation of calcium homeostasis, including activated human inflammatory cells. The question that remained was the biological significance of the presence of vitamin D receptors in the different tissues and cells and, with regard to the immune system, whether or not vitamin D plays a role in the normal immune response and in modifying immune mediated diseases. In this article findings indicating that vitamin D is a key factor regulating both innate and adaptive immunity are reviewed with a focus on the molecular mechanisms involved. In addition, the physiological significance of vitamin D action, as suggested by in vivo
studies in mouse models is discussed. Together, the findings indicate the importance of 1,25(OH)2
as a regulator of key components of the immune system. An understanding of the mechanisms involved will lead to potential therapeutic applications for the treatment of immune mediated diseases.
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