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A high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency exists worldwide, which is associated with an increased incidence and severity of a range of immune-mediated diseases. This has resulted in considerable interest in the immunodulatory functions of vitamin D. The active form of vitamin D, 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D3], has been shown to increase the frequency of Foxp3(+) CD4(+) T regulatory (Treg) cells when present at high concentrations or under strong T-cell stimulation in culture. Supporting evidence exists in vivo for a positive association between serum 25(OH)D and Foxp3(+) Treg cell numbers in humans. The aim of this work was to identify the cytokine milieu required in vitro to promote Foxp3(+) Treg cells in cultures containing 1,25(OH)2D3 at more moderate concentrations (10(-7) M). Stimulation of human CD4(+) T cells with a combination of 1,25(OH)2D3 and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) greatly increased the frequency of Foxp3(+) Treg cells, which is proposed to result from the preferential expansion of Foxp3(+) Treg cells, as compared with the Foxp3(-) effector T cells, in culture. The differential effect on proliferation may result from enhanced availability and usage of interleukin-2 by the Foxp3(+) Treg cells compared with Foxp3(-) effector T cells. In summary, modulation of the cytokine environment to one high in TGF-β in the presence of 1,25(OH)2D3(10(-7) M) significantly increased Foxp3(+) Treg cell frequency. These data provide additional evidence for the important immunomodulatory properties of 1,25(OH)2D3 that exist and may help to control inflammatory diseases.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





52 - 60


1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, Foxp3+ regulatory T cells, interleukin-2, transforming growth factor-β, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Flow Cytometry, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Humans, Interleukin-2, Lymphocyte Activation, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Transforming Growth Factor beta, Vitamin D