Influence of the season on vitamin D levels and regulatory T cells in patients with polymorphic light eruption
The exact mechanisms of photohardening in polymorphic light eruption (PLE) are still unknown, but medical photohardening was shown to increase regulatory T cell (Treg) numbers in the blood of PLE patients, similar to natural hardening. Furthermore, oral vitamin D supplementation increased peripheral Tregs in healthy individuals. We herein report on a post hoc analysis of 26 screened PLE patients of a clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov No. NCT01595893), in which the influence of the progressing season was investigated on baseline CD4+CD25+FoxP3+CD127− Treg numbers by flow cytometry and Treg suppressive function by co-culture assays with T effector cells as a secondary endpoint, together with 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) serum levels at the study's screening visit, taking place in the period from January to June. The mean 25(OH)D serum level of all patients was 33.2 ng ml−1. Ten of those patients (38.5%) were identified with low 25(OH)D levels (<30 ng ml−1). Significantly higher baseline 25(OH)D serum levels (plus 34.4%; P = 0.0182) as well as higher relative Treg percentages in CD4+ population (plus 62.8%; P = 0.0157) and in total lymphocyte population (plus 59.6%; P = 0.0372) and higher absolute Treg numbers (plus 100.2%; P = 0.0042) were observed in the late spring/early summer period (April to June) compared to the winter period (January to February). No significant relationship was observed when Treg numbers and function were correlated with 25(OH)D levels. These data indicate that in PLE patients Treg numbers and their suppressive function are independent of vitamin D serum levels and suggest that UV light and/or other seasonal factors may affect these cells via the non-vitamin D related pathway(s).