Role of Vitamin D in cytotoxic T lymphocyte immunity to pathogens and cancer

Surojit Sarkar, Martin Hewison, George P. Studzinski, Yan Chun Li, Vandana Kalia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The discovery of vitamin D receptor (VDR) expression in immune cells has opened up a new area of research into immunoregulation by vitamin D, a niche that is distinct from its classical role in skeletal health. Today, about three decades since this discovery, numerous cellular and molecular targets of vitamin D in the immune system have been delineated. Moreover, strong clinical associations between vitamin D status and the incidence/severity of many immune-regulated disorders (e.g. infectious diseases, cancers and autoimmunity) have prompted the idea of using vitamin D supplementation to manipulate disease outcome. While much is known about the effects of vitamin D on innate immune responses and helper T (TH) cell immunity, there has been relatively limited progress on the frontier of cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) immunity-an arm of host cellular adaptive immunity that is crucial for the control of such intracellular pathogens as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and hepatitis C virus (HCV). In this review, we discuss the strong historical and clinical link between vitamin D and infectious diseases that involves cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) immunity, present our current understanding as well as critical knowledge gaps in the realm of vitamin D regulation of host CTL responses, and highlight potential regulatory connections between vitamin D and effector and memory CD8 T cell differentiation events during infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-145
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 3 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


  • CD8 T cells
  • Calcitriol
  • Cyp27B1
  • Vitamin D receptor
  • differentiation
  • effector cells
  • immunological memory
  • protective immunity


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