Within the human digestive tract is a teeming mass of hundreds of types of bacteria, a potpourri of microbes numbering in the trillions that help us digest food and keep bad bacteria in check.
Now scientists have found that the vitamin D receptor is a key player amid the gut bacteria what scientists refer to matter-of-factly as the "gut flora" helping to govern their activity, responding to their cues, and sometimes countering their presence. The work was published online recently in the American Journal of Pathology.
The findings deliver a new lead to scientists investigating how bacteria might play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulceractive colitis. The work complements studies suggesting that Salmonella infection can increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.
"Vitamin D deficiency is a known factor in the pathology of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer," said microbiologist Jun Sun, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center, "but there have been very few reports about how bacteria might play a role by targeting the vitamin D receptor. Our work suggests one possible mechanism, by working through the vitamin D receptor, a sensor and regulator for the majority of functions of vitamin D."
Sun specializes in the actions of bacteria in the body and how their interactions within the body contribute to disease. She has shown that bacteria often found in the human intestine affect molecular signals known to contribute to inflammatory response and cell growth.
Her work with the vitamin D receptor takes place at a time when the molecule is coming under increasing scrutiny. Scientists have associated vitamin D and the receptor with many types of cancer, as well as osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and infection.
Sun's team took a close look at the vitamin D receptor in mice and its interactions
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center