American journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology

Vitamin D supplementation blocks pulmonary structural and functional changes in a rat model of perinatal vitamin D deficiency.

PMID 25305247


Whereas epidemiological data strongly link vitamin D (VD) deficiency to childhood asthma, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unknown. Although VD is known to stimulate alveolar epithelial-mesenchymal interactions, promoting perinatal lung maturation, whether VD supplementation during this period protects against childhood asthma has not been demonstrated experimentally. Using an in vivo rat model, we determined the effects of perinatal VD deficiency on overall pulmonary function and the tracheal contraction as a functional marker of airway contractility. One month before pregnancy, rat dams were put on either a no cholecalciferol-added or a 250, 500, or 1,000 IU/kg cholecalciferol-added diet, which was continued throughout pregnancy and lactation. At postnatal day 21, offspring plasma 25(OH)D levels and pulmonary function (whole body plethysmography and tracheal contraction response to acetylcholine) were determined. 25(OH)D levels were lowest in the no cholecalciferol-supplemented group, increasing incrementally in response to cholecalciferol supplementation. Compared with the 250 and 500 IU/kg VD-supplemented groups, the no cholecalciferol-supplemented group demonstrated a significant increase in airway resistance following methacholine challenge. However, the cholecalciferol deficiency-mediated increase in tracheal contractility in the cholecalciferol-depleted group was only blocked by supplementation with 500 IU/kg cholecalciferol. Therefore, in addition to altering alveolar epithelial-mesenchymal signaling, perinatal VD deficiency also alters airway contractility, providing novel insights to asthma pathogenesis in perinatally VD-deficient offspring. Perinatal VD supplementation at 500 IU/kg appears to effectively block these effects of perinatal VD deficiency in the rat model used, providing a strong clinical rationale for effective perinatal VD supplementation for preventing childhood asthma.