Low-dose vitamin D3 supplementation does not affect natural regulatory T cell population but attenuates seasonal changes in T cell-produced IFN-γ: Results from the D-SIRe2 randomised controlled trial

Wakunyambo Maboshe, Helen M. Macdonald, Heather Wassall, William D. Fraser, Jonathan C. Y. Tang, Shona Fielding, Robert N. Barker, Mark A. Vickers, Anthony Ormerod, Frank Thies (Lead Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Seasonal variations have been reported for immune markers. However, the relative contributions of sunlight and vitamin D variability on such seasonal changes are unknown.

This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial tested whether daily 400 IU vitamin D3 supplementation affected short-term (12 weeks) and long-term (43 weeks) natural regulatory T cell (nTreg) populations in healthy participants.

62 subjects were randomized equally to vitamin D versus placebo in March and assessed at baseline, April (4w), June (12w), September (25w) and January (43w). Circulating nTregs, ex vivo proliferation, IL-10 and IFN-γ productions were measured. Vitamin D metabolites and sunlight exposure were also assessed.

Mean serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) increased from 35.8(SD 3.0) to 65.3(2.6) nmol/L in April and remained above 70 nmol/L with vitamin D supplementation, whereas it increased from 36.4(3.2) to 49.8(3.5) nmol/L in June to fall back to 39.6(3.5) nmol/L in January with placebo. Immune markers varied similarly between groups according to the season, but independently of 25(OH)D. For nTregs, the mean (%CD3+CD4+CD127lo cells (SEM)) nadir observed in March (2.9(0.1)%) peaked in September at 4.0(0.2)%. Mean T cell proliferation peaked in June (33156(1813) CPM) returning to the nadir in January (17965 (978) CPM), while IL-10 peaked in June and reached its nadir in September (median (IQR) of 262(283) to (121(194) pg/ml, respectively). Vitamin D attenuated the seasonal increase in IFN-γ by ~28% with mean ng/ml (SEM) for placebo vs vitamin D, respectively, for April 12.5(1.4) vs 10.0(1.2) (p=0.02); June 13.9(1.3) vs 10.2(1.7) (p=0.02) and January 7.4(1.1) vs 6.0(1.1) (p=0.04).

Daily low dose Vitamin D intake did not affect the nTregs population. There were seasonal variation in nTregs, proliferative response and cytokines, suggesting that environmental changes influence immune response, but the mechanism seems independent of vitamin D status. Vitamin D attenuated the seasonal change in T cell-produced IFN-γ, suggesting a decrease in effector response which could be associated with inflammation.

Clinical trial identifier: ISRCTN 73114576 (https://www.isrctn.com)
Original languageEnglish
Article number623087
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021


  • T regulatory cells
  • healthy subjects
  • immune markers
  • interferon-gamma
  • randomized control trial
  • seasonality
  • vitamin D

Cite this