Vitamin D, Autoimmune Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.
  • Department of Rheumatology, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Birmingham, B18 7QH
  • Institute of Translation Medicine, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
  • Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence and MRC Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
  • Birmingham Health Partners


Vitamin D has been reported to influence physiological systems that extend far beyond its established functions in calcium and bone homeostasis. Prominent amongst these are the potent immunomodulatory effects of the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3). The nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR) for 1,25-(OH)2D3 is expressed by many cells within the immune system and resulting effects include modulation of T cell phenotype to suppress pro-inflammatory Th1 and Th17 CD4+ T cells and promote tolerogenic regulatory T cells. In addition, antigen-presenting cells have been shown to express the enzyme 1α-hydroxylase that converts precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25-OHD3) to 1,25-(OH)2D3, so that immune microenvironments are able to both activate and respond to vitamin D. As a consequence of this local, intracrine, system, immune responses may vary according to the availability of 25-OHD3, and vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various autoimmune disorders including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of this review is to explore the immune activities of vitamin D that impact autoimmune disease, with specific reference to RA. As well as outlining the mechanisms linking vitamin D with autoimmune disease, the review will also describe the different studies that have linked vitamin D status to RA, and the current supplementation studies that have explored the potential benefits of vitamin D for prevention or treatment of RA. The overall aim of the review is to provide a fresh perspective on the potential role of vitamin D in RA pathogenesis and treatment.


Original languageEnglish
JournalCalcified Tissue International
Early online date8 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jul 2019


  • Autoimmune disease, Inflammation, Rheumatoid arthritis, T cell, Vitamin D, Vitamin D receptor