Vitamin D status changes with season, but the effect of these changes on immune function is not clear. In this study, we show that in utero vitamin D deficiency in mice results in a significant reduction in invariant NKT (iNKT) cell numbers that could not be corrected by later intervention with vitamin D or 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D3 (active form of the vitamin). Furthermore, this was intrinsic to hematopoietic cells, as vitamin D-deficient bone marrow is specifically defective in generating iNKT cells in wild-type recipients. This vitamin D deficiency-induced reduction in iNKT cells is due to increased apoptosis of early iNKT cell precursors in the thymus. Whereas both the vitamin D receptor and vitamin D regulate iNKT cells, the vitamin D receptor is required for both iNKT cell function and number, and vitamin D (the ligand) only controls the number of iNKT cells. Given the importance of proper iNKT cell function in health and disease, this prenatal requirement for vitamin D suggests that in humans, the amount of vitamin D available in the environment during prenatal development may dictate the number of iNKT cells and potential risk of autoimmunity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy