The importance of vitamin D to good health has been extensively reported in recent years, but a new study has shed some light on the genetic mechanisms that may be responsible for this.
Scientists from the University of Oxford have mapped more than 200 genes in the human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) chain that vitamin D directly influences.
In their work, the researchers used novel DNA sequencing technology to create a map of vitamin D receptors that appear along the genome. They found 2,776 such binding sites, which allow the vitamin to attach itself and influence protein expression.
Many of the sites were located near genes linked to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohns disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia and colorectal cancer.
“Our study shows quite dramatically the wide-ranging influence that vitamin D exerts over our health,” said Andreas Heger, Ph.D., from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford.
His collaborators added that vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and adolescence could yield substantial benefits for people as they grow up.
The results were published in the journal Genome Research.