Vitamin D deficiency promotes epithelial barrier dysfunction and intestinal inflammation

Amit Assa, Linda Vong, Lee J. Pinnell, Naama Avitzur, Kathene C. Johnson-Henry, Philip M. Sherman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Vitamin D, an important modulator of the immune system, has been shown to protect mucosal barrier homeostasis. This study investigates the effects of vitamin D deficiency on infection-induced changes in intestinal epithelial barrier function in vitro and on Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis in mice. Methods: Polarized epithelial Caco2-bbe cells were grown in medium with or without vitamin D and challenged with enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7. Barrier function and tight junction protein expression were assessed. Weaned C57BL/6 mice were fed either a vitamin D-sufficient or vitamin D-deficient diet and then infected with C. rodentium. Disease severity was assessed by histological analysis, intestinal permeability assay, measurement of inflammatory cytokine levels, and microbiome analysis. Results: 1,25(OH)2D3 altered E. coli O157:H7-induced reductions in transepithelial electrical resistance (P <.01), decreased permeability (P <.05), and preserved barrier integrity. Vitamin D-deficient mice challenged with C. rodentium demonstrated increased colonic hyperplasia and epithelial barrier dysfunction (P <.0001 and P <.05, respectively). Vitamin D deficiency resulted in an altered composition of the fecal microbiome both in the absence and presence of C. rodentium infection. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that vitamin D is an important mediator of intestinal epithelial defenses against infectious agents. Vitamin D deficiency predisposes to more-severe intestinal injury in an infectious model of colitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1305
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Barrier function
  • Colitis
  • Dysbiosis
  • Microbiome
  • Vitamin D


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