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Journal of Parasitology Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 134645, 10 pages
Research Article

The Role of Vitamin D and Vitamin D Receptor in Immunity to Leishmania major Infection

1Eck Institute for Global Health, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA
2Cancer Research Center, University at Albany, 1 Discovery Drive, Rensselaer, NY 12144, USA
3Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

Received 2 May 2011; Revised 1 July 2011; Accepted 25 July 2011

Academic Editor: Marcela F. Lopes

Copyright © 2012 James P. Whitcomb et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Vitamin D signaling modulates a variety of immune responses. Here, we assessed the role of vitamin D in immunity to experimental leishmaniasis infection in vitamin D receptor-deficient mice (VDRKO). We observed that VDRKO mice on a genetically resistant background have decreased Leishmania major-induced lesion development compared to wild-type (WT) mice; additionally, parasite loads in infected dermis were significantly lower at the height of infection. Enzymatic depletion of the active form of vitamin D mimics the ablation of VDR resulting in an increased resistance to L. major. Conversely, VDRKO or vitamin D-deficient mice on the susceptible Th2-biased background had no change in susceptibility. These studies indicate vitamin D deficiency, either through the ablation of VDR or elimination of its ligand, 1,25D3, leads to an increase resistance to L. major infection but only in a host that is predisposed for Th-1 immune responses.