Biomedicine

Chippin' Away at Vitamin D

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Science  24 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5999, pp. 1575-1577
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5999.1575-d

Every week seems to bring another epidemiological study linking vitamin D deficiency to an elevated risk of disease. The expanding list of diseases extends well beyond the bone disorders that made vitamin D famous, and includes autoimmune disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Given that 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to suffer from vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency, the biological pathways by which vitamin D acts are of great interest. Ramagopalan et al. have catalogued the number and types of human genes that are likely to be regulated by vitamin D via its receptor VDR, which is a transcription factor. Applying a technique called ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel DNA sequencing) to human lymphoblastoid cells, they found that VDR bound to 2776 genomic sites in response to vitamin D signaling and that 229 genes showed significant changes in expression as a result. Interestingly, VDR binding sites were enriched near several candidate genes that have been previously implicated in autoimmune disorders and certain cancers, suggesting that further investigation of this subset of genes may be revealing about the role played by vitamin D in disease pathogenesis.

Genome Res. 20, 10.1101/gr.107920.110 (2010).

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