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Effect of vitamin D supplementation on biomarkers of inflammation and immune function: functional genomics analysis of the BEST-D trial

By Antonio J Berlanga-Taylor, Katherine Plant, Andrew Dahl, Evelyn Lau, Michael Hill, David Sims, Andreas Heger, Jonathan R Emberson, Jane Armitage, Robert Clarke, Julian Knight

Posted 21 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/217612 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.04.010)

Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with multiple diseases, but the causal relevance and underlying processes are not fully understood. Elucidating the mechanisms of action of drug treatments in humans is challenging, but application of functional genomic approaches in randomised trials may afford an opportunity to systematically assess molecular responses to treatments. In the Biochemical Efficacy and Safety Trial of Vitamin D (BEST-D), 305 community-dwelling individuals aged over 65 years were randomly allocated to treatment with vitamin D3 4000 IU, 2000 IU or placebo daily for 12 months. Genome-wide genotypes at baseline and transcriptome and plasma levels of cytokines (IFN-γ, IL-10, IL-8, IL-6 and TNF-α) were measured at baseline and after 12 months. The trial had >90% power to detect a 2-fold change in gene expression. Allocation to vitamin D for 12-months was associated with 2-fold higher plasma levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25[OH]D), but had no significant effect on whole-blood gene expression (FDR <5%) or on plasma levels of cytokines compared with placebo. In pre-specified analysis, rs7041 (intron variant, GC) had a significant effect on circulating levels of 25(OH)D in the low dose but not on the placebo or high dose vitamin D regimen. A gene expression quantitative trait locus analysis (eQTL) demonstrated evidence of 31,568 cis-eQTLs (unique SNP-probe pairs) among individuals at baseline and 34,254 after supplementation for 12 months (any dose), but had no significant effect on cis-eQTLs specific to vitamin D supplementation. The trial demonstrates the feasibility of application of functional genomics approaches in randomised trials to assess the effects of vitamin D on immune function. Clinical Trial Registration: ISRCTN #07034656; EudraCT #2011-005763-24.

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