HIV and AIDSHow does vitamin D work?

The beneficial action of vitamin D on patients with HIV or AIDS is primarily through the action of 1,25(OH)2D in activating vitamin D receptors (VDRs). VDRs regulate expression of at least 1000 genes, up-regulating about two-thirds and down-regulating one-third. Several studies have reported risk of HIV or progression to AIDS for various VDR alleles (varieties)1234.

1,25(OH)2D induces production of cathelicidin and defensins, which have antimicrobial and antiendotoxin effects extending to both bacteria and viruses56. See, also, the section on influenza.

Vitamin D also reduces the risk of many other diseases including many types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, bacterial and viral infections, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, etc., through mechanisms discussed in the other sections of this site.

On the other hand, several studies have identified mechanisms for increased risk for HIV/AIDS with respect to serum 25(OH)D or 1,25(OH)2D levels. 1,25(OH)2D levels are generally directly correlated with 25(OH)D levels up to 25(OH)D levels of 75 nmol/L, then flat after that7. One effect is that 1,25(OH)2D facilitates HIV replication8910. However, cathelicidin, induced by 1,25(OH)2D, has been found to inhibit HIV replication11. Thus, further research is required to sort out the relative contributions of these effects.

The human apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing enzyme-catalytic polipeptide-like-3G (APOBECG3) has raised special interest as interfering agent of HIV dissemination12. T-helper-1 (Th1) cells have more APOEBECG3 than Th2 cells13. 1,25(OH)2D shifts the Th1-Th2 balance towards Th214. Thus, this shift may reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS.

Page last edited: 09 May 2011


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  2. de la Torre, M. S. Torres, C. Nieto, G. Vergara, S. Carrero, A. J. Macias, J. Pineda, J. A. Caruz, A. Fibla, J. Vitamin D receptor gene haplotypes and susceptibility to HIV-1 infection in injection drug users. J Infect Dis. 2008 Feb 1; 197 (3): 405-10.
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  11. Bergman, P. Walter-Jallow, L. Broliden, K. Agerberth, B. Soderlund, J. The antimicrobial peptide LL-37 inhibits HIV-1 replication. Curr HIV Res. 2007 Jul; 5 (4): 410-5.
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  14. Cantorna, M. T. Mahon, B. D. D-hormone and the immune system. J Rheumatol Suppl. 2005 Sep; 7611-20.