After years of research, scientists are continuing to find new roles that vitamin D plays in the human body. It can regulate the actions of genes that are important to bone health, calcium uptake, and inhibition of cell growth. It helps regulate cell differentiation and, of course, immune function.
"The antimicrobial peptide that we're studying seems to be involved not just in killing bacteria, but has other biological roles," Gombart said. "It recruits other immune cells and sort of sounds the alarm that something is wrong. It helps promote development of blood vessels, cell growth and healing of wounds. And it seems to have important roles in barrier tissues such as skin and the digestive system. Vitamin D is very important for the health of the skin and digestive system, and putting the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene under its regulation may be important in this function."
Any one, or some combination of those biological roles may be why vitamin D-mediated regulation of the antimicrobial peptide has been conserved in every primate species ever examined for its presence, researchers said, and did not disappear long ago through evolutionary variation and mutation. The evolution of primates into many different families and hundreds of species has been carefully tracked through genetic, molecular sequence and fossil studies, but the presence of this regulatory element in primates is still largely the same as it's been for more than 50 million years.
The evolutionary survival of this genetic element and the placement of the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene under the regulation of the vitamin D pathway "may enable suppression of inflammation while potentiating innate imm
|Contact: Adrian Gombart|
Oregon State University