Vitamin d deficiency reduces the immune response, phagocytosis rate, and intracellular killing rate of microglial cells
Meningitis and meningoencephalitis caused by Escherichia coli are associated with high rates of mortality and neurological sequelae. A high prevalence of neurological disorders has been observed in geriatric populations at risk of hypovitaminosis D. Vitamin D has potent effects on human immunity, including induction of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and suppression of T-cell proliferation, but its influence on microglial cells is unknown. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of vitamin D deficiency on the phagocytosis rate, intracellular killing, and immune response of murine microglial cultures after stimulation with the Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists tripalmitoyl-S-glyceryl-cysteine (TLR1/2), poly(I·C) (TLR3), lipopolysaccharide (TLR4), and CpG oligodeoxynucleotide (TLR9). Upon stimulation with high concentrations of TLR agonists, the release of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) was decreased in vitamin D-deficient compared to that in vitamin D-sufficient microglial cultures. Phagocytosis of E. coli K1 after stimulation of microglial cells with high concentrations of TLR3, -4, and -9 agonists and intracellular killing of E. coli K1 after stimulation with high concentrations of all TLR agonists were lower in vitamin D-deficient microglial cells than in the respective control cells. Our observations suggest that vitamin D deficiency may impair the resistance of the brain against bacterial infections.