• allergy;
  • B cells;
  • immunoglobulin E;
  • vitamin D;
  • vitamin D receptor

To cite this article: Hartmann B, Heine G, Babina M, Steinmeyer A, Zügel U, Radbruch A, Worm M. Targeting the vitamin D receptor inhibits the B cell-dependent allergic immune response. Allergy 2011; 66: 540–548.


Background:  1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (calcitriol), the biologically active form of vitamin D, is an immunomodulatory hormone, e.g. it inhibits IgE synthesis in B cells. As its clinical application is limited by hypercalcemia, synthetic vitamin D receptor (VDR) agonists that mediate immunomodulatory activities without adverse hypercalcemic effects are of great interest. This study aimed to investigate the impact of a low-calcemic VDR agonist on the IgE immune response in vitro and in vivo.

Methods:  Human peripheral B cells were cultured under IgE inducing conditions in the presence of VDR ligands. B cells were analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, enzyme-linked immunospot technique, and flow cytometry. BALB/c mice were sensitized with ovalbumin (OVA)/alum followed by the therapeutic VDR agonist treatment and analyzed regarding the humoral immunoglobulin profile.

Results:  The natural VDR ligand calcitriol, but also a low-calcemic VDR agonist, profoundly suppressed IgE production by human peripheral B cells by 63.9 ± 5.9%. The potential mechanisms involved are the reduction of the transcript for activation-induced deaminase (AID) and the reduction of IgE immunoglobulin-secreting cells by 68.1 ± 12.7%. By using an in vivo approach, we finally demonstrate that the humoral IgE response in a type I allergy mouse model was impaired by the VDR agonist.

Conclusion:  Our results show that targeting the VDR modulates the humoral immune response including IgE. Whether it might be useful for clinical applications has to be determined in appropriate clinical trials.