Vitamin D in systemic and organ-specific autoimmune diseases.
Lately, vitamin D has been linked with metabolic and immunological processes, which established its role as an essential component of human health preservation. Vitamin D has been defined as natural immune modulators, and upon activation of its receptors (VDRs), it regulates calcium metabolism, cellular growth, proliferation and apoptosis, and other immunological functions. Epidemiological data underline a strong correlation between poor vitamin D status and higher risk for chronic inflammatory illnesses of various etiologies, including autoimmune diseases. Epidemiological, genetic, and basic studies indicated a potential role of vitamin D in the pathogenesis of certain systemic and organ-specific autoimmune diseases. These studies demonstrate correlation between low vitamin D and prevalence of diseases. In addition, VDRs’ polymorphisms observed in some of these autoimmune diseases may further support a plausible pathogenic link. Notably, for some autoimmune disease, no correlation with vitamin D levels could be confirmed. Thus, in the current review we present the body of evidence regarding the plausible roles of vitamin D and VDR’s polymorphism in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. We summarize the data regarding systemic (i.e., systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) and organ-specific (i.e., multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, primary biliary cirrhosis, etc.) autoimmune diseases, in which low level of vitamin D was found comparing to healthy subjects. In addition, we discuss the correlations between vitamin D levels and clinical manifestations and/or activity of diseases. In this context, we address the rational for vitamin D supplementation in patients suffering from autoimmune diseases. Further studies addressing the mechanisms by which vitamin D affects autoimmunity and the proper supplementation required are needed.