Vitamin D3 metabolite calcidiol primes human dendritic cells to promote the development of immunomodulatory IL-10-producing T cells.
Vaccine 2014 Oct 29;32: 6294-302
Vitamin D is recognized as a potent immunosuppressive drug. The suppressive effects of vitamin D are attributed to its physiologically active metabolite 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D3 (calcitriol), which was shown, to prime dendritic cells (DCs) to promote the development of regulatory T (Treg) cells. Despite the potential benefit in treating autoimmune diseases, clinical application of calcitriol is hindered by deleterious side effects manifested by hypercalcemia and hypercalciuria. Conversely, the physiological precursors of calcitriol, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and its first metabolite 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 (calcidiol) are widely applied in the clinic due to their low calcimic burden. However, the mechanisms by which cholecalciferol and calcidiol may modulate adaptive immunity remain elusive. This prompted us to unravel the immunosuppressive capacity of these precursors by assessing their influence on DC functions and the subsequent polarization of naïve CD4(+) T cells. In this study we show that, whereas cholecalciferol has insignificant effects on DC maturation and cytokine production, it only weakly primed DCs to induce suppressive T cells. However, like calcitriol, calcidiol not only exerted an inhibitory effect on DC maturation and cytokine production, and primed DCs to promote the development of suppressive IL-10-producing Treg cells. Strikingly, in contrast to the population of IL-10-producing Treg cells induced by calcitriol-primed DCs, the IL-10-producing Treg cells induced by calcidiol-primed DCs exhibited sustained IFN-γ production in face of their suppressive capacity. Experiments with the steroid synthesis inhibitor ketoconazole indicated that the immunomodulatory features of the precursors are dependent on their conversion into calcitriol. Collectively, calcidiol is a potent immune modulator, which may be more adequate than calcitriol for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases, since it is less hypercalcimic. This may be of particular interest for the treatment of allergic disease, where concurrent suppression and sustained IFN-γ production by Treg cells effectively counterbalance the Th2-dominated immune responses.