The respiratory epithelium is the first line of defense against inspired pathogenic microorganisms. One component of this defense is the production of antimicrobial peptides such as ?-defensins and cathelicidins. The long-range goal of our research has been to understand host-pathogen interactions in the airway epithelium. Identification of a non-toxic agent that could increase antibacterial capabilities of the airway through transcriptional mechanisms could have long-reaching implications for the treatment of airway infections. Toward this goal, we recently demonstrated that an antimicrobial peptide, the cathelicidin LL-37, can be induced in airway epithelial cells (AEC) grown in an air-liquid interfac (ALI) by the hormonally active form of vitamin D, 1,25(OH)2D3. In addition, we observed the induction of a novel innate immune receptor, Triggering Receptor Expressed on Myeloid cells (TREM-1) on AEC. After TREM-1 levels are increased by 1,25(OH)2D3, activation of this receptor results in stimulation of innate immune mediators, including ?-defensins. We have further identified transcription factor binding sites in the promoter of these 1,25(OH)2D3-regulated innate immune genes that may be required for the induction. Thus we have uncovered a novel method for innate immune stimulation of airway cells. Based upon these results, we hypothesize that 1,25(OH)2D3 can increase the antibacterial and overall innate immune response of the airway epithelium. However, in order to address this hypothesis, we must first understand the relationship between vitamin D and innate immunity in the airway. Thus, we are proposing here an exploratory study to characterize the effect of vitamin D on innate immune pathways and on in the innate immune defense of the airway.
In specific aim 1 we will characterize the cross- talk between the TLR-based innate immune pathways and the vitamin D pathways regulating LL-37 and TREM-1 expression in vitro.
In specific aim 2, we will define the mechanism of innate immune regulation of the vitamin D regulatory pathway in airway epithelial cells through a characterization of the pathways and transcription factors leading to LL-37 and TREM-1 gene expression in airway epithelial cells.
In specific aim 3 we will determine the effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 on innate immunity in a mouse model of airway infection, using our existing airway infection model of intranasal inoculation of Streptococcus pneumoniae to quantify the effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 on airway host defense in vivo. Since murine cathelicidin is not regulated by vitamin D, we will examine the effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 in vivo using a humanized mouse expressing the human LL-37 gene under the control of its own promoter. The results of our three aims will provide a solid foundation for further in-depth analysis of the roles played by these innate immune mediators in host defense of the airway, and of the potential for the development of 1,25(OH)2D3 treatment as a therapy for airway infections. This application is appropriate for the R21 mechanism because it involves considerable risk but may lead to a breakthrough in vitamin D and innate immunity that could have a major impact on research in the field of airway infections.

Public Health Relevance

Respiratory tract infections are a major cause of disease and death in humans. Our published results have demonstrated that 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 can increase the innate immune defenses of airway cells. We propose to examine the mechanism by which this activation occurs, and to determine the effect of vitamin D on the ability to defend against lung infections in a mouse model, to lay the groundwork for the development of a novel treatment for airway infectious diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-CVRS-J (05))
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Minnicozzi, Michael
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University of Medicine & Dentistry of NJ
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DiFranco, Kristina M; Mulligan, Jennifer K; Sumal, Aman S et al. (2017) Induction of CFTR gene expression by 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3, 25OH vitamin D3, and vitamin D3 in cultured human airway epithelial cells and in mouse airways. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 173:323-332
Christakos, Sylvia; Dhawan, Puneet; Verstuyf, Annemieke et al. (2016) Vitamin D: Metabolism, Molecular Mechanism of Action, and Pleiotropic Effects. Physiol Rev 96:365-408
Veldurthy, Vaishali; Wei, Ran; Campbell, Megan et al. (2016) 25-Hydroxyvitamin D? 24-Hydroxylase: A Key Regulator of 1,25(OH)?D? Catabolism and Calcium Homeostasis. Vitam Horm 100:137-50
Wei, Ran; Christakos, Sylvia (2015) Mechanisms Underlying the Regulation of Innate and Adaptive Immunity by Vitamin D. Nutrients 7:8251-60
Dhawan, Puneet; Wei, Ran; Sun, Cheng et al. (2015) C/EBP? and the Vitamin D Receptor Cooperate in the Regulation of Cathelicidin in Lung Epithelial Cells. J Cell Physiol 230:464-72
Seth-Vollenweider, Tanya; Joshi, Sneha; Dhawan, Puneet et al. (2014) Novel mechanism of negative regulation of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3-induced 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 24-hydroxylase (Cyp24a1) Transcription: epigenetic modification involving cross-talk between protein-arginine methyltransferase 5 and the SWI/SNF complex. J Biol Chem 289:33958-70
Christakos, Sylvia; Seth, Tanya; Hirsch, Jennifer et al. (2013) Vitamin D biology revealed through the study of knockout and transgenic mouse models. Annu Rev Nutr 33:71-85
Christakos, Sylvia (2012) Vitamin D deficiency: protective against enteric infection? Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 303:G1297-8