Vitamin D is a liposoluble vitamin essential for calcium metabolism. The ligand-bound vitamin D receptor (VDR), heterodimerized with retinoid X receptor, interacts with vitamin D response elements (VDREs) to regulate gene expression. Vitamin D deficiency due to insufficient sunlight exposure confers an increased risk for multiple sclerosis (MS).
To study a protective role of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis (MS), it is important to characterize the global molecular network of VDR target genes (VDRTGs) in immune cells.
We identified genome-wide VDRTGs collectively from two distinct chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP-Seq) datasets of VDR-binding sites derived from calcitriol-treated human cells of B cell and monocyte origins. We mapped short reads of next generation sequencing (NGS) data on hg19 with Bowtie, detected the peaks with Model-based Analysis of ChIP-Seq (MACS), and identified genomic locations by GenomeJack, a novel genome viewer for NGS platforms.
We found 2997 stringent peaks distributed on protein-coding genes, chiefly located in the promoter and the intron on VDRE DR3 sequences. However, the corresponding transcriptome data verified calcitriol-induced upregulation of only a small set of VDRTGs. The molecular network of 1541 calcitriol-responsive VDRTGs showed a significant relationship with leukocyte transendothelial migration, Fcγ receptor-mediated phagocytosis, and transcriptional regulation by VDR, suggesting a pivotal role of genome-wide VDRTGs in immune regulation.
These results suggest the working hypothesis that persistent deficiency of vitamin D might perturb the complex network of VDRTGs in immune cells, being responsible for induction of an autoimmune response causative for MS.