Verway M, Bouttier M, Wang TT, Carrier M, Calderon M, An BS, Devemy E, McIntosh F, Divangahi M, Behr MA, White JH
Although vitamin D deficiency is a common feature among patients presenting with active tuberculosis, the full scope of vitamin D action during Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection is poorly understood. As macrophages are the primary site of Mtb infection and are sites of vitamin D signaling, we have used these cells to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying modulation of the immune response by the hormonal form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25D). We found that the virulent Mtb strain H37Rv elicits a broad host transcriptional response. Transcriptome profiling also revealed that the profile of target genes regulated by 1,25D is substantially altered by infection, and that 1,25D generally boosts infection-stimulated cytokine/chemokine responses. We further focused on the role of 1,25D- and infection-induced interleukin 1β (IL-1β) expression in response to infection. 1,25D enhanced IL-1β expression via a direct transcriptional mechanism. Secretion of IL-1β from infected cells required the NLRP3/caspase-1 inflammasome. The impact of IL-1β production was investigated in a novel model wherein infected macrophages were co-cultured with primary human small airway epithelial cells. Co-culture significantly prolonged survival of infected macrophages, and 1,25D/infection-induced IL-1β secretion from macrophages reduced mycobacterial burden by stimulating the anti-mycobacterial capacity of co-cultured lung epithelial cells. These effects were independent of 1,25D-stimulated autophagy in macrophages but dependent upon epithelial IL1R1 signaling and IL-1β-driven epithelial production of the antimicrobial peptide DEFB4/HBD2. These data provide evidence that the anti-microbial actions of vitamin D extend beyond the macrophage by modulating paracrine signaling, reinforcing its role in innate immune regulation in humans.