Margherita T Cantorna, Ph.D.

Margherita T Cantorna, Ph.D.

  • Distinguished Professor of Molecular Immunology
217 AVBS Building
Shortlidge Road

University Park, PA 16802

Areas of Expertise

  • Host resistance to infection
  • Immune-mediated diseases: multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • T cells
  • Gastrointestinal microbiota; Gnotobiotics
  • Vitamins A & D regulation of immune function
  • Edible mushrooms
  • Selenium


  • Postdoctoral Fellow in Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • PhD in Immunology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • BS in Chemistry, University of Illinois-Urbana

Graduate Programs


Vitamin D Regulation of the Immune System

The classic functions of vitamin D are in the regulation of bone remodeling and calcium homeostasis. The identification of vitamin D receptors in cells of the immune system sparked the early interest in vitamin D as an immune system regulator. Anecdotal data suggests a link between vitamin D status and the human autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). Experimentally, vitamin D deficiency exacerbates experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) an animal model of MS. Conversely, vitamin D supplementation prevents and ameliorates symptoms of EAE. The overall goal of the laboratory is to identify and characterize the cellular and molecular targets of vitamin D in the immune system and to therefore understand why vitamin D treatments are effective in EAE. In addition we are interested in identifying other diseases/conditions which might be affected by vitamin D status.

Nutritional control of host resistance to infection

Vitamin A and vitamin D regulate T cells.  Experiments utilize an infection in mice that resembles human infections with enterophathogenic Escherica coli.  Experiments determine the targets of vitamin A or vitamin D as regulators of the mucosal immune response to infection.  Vitamin A deficient and vitamin D deficient mice are highly susceptible to infection of the gastrointestinal tract.  In addition, the bacterial microbiota in the gut is regulated by vitamin A and vitamin D.  Mechanisms to explain the effects of these nutrients on host resistance are the focus of this work. 

Vitamin D status and inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) are immune mediated diseases of unknown etiology affecting the gastrointestinal tract. There are several factors, which suggest that vitamin D status and IBD are linked. The first is the geographical distribution of IBD. IBD is most prevalent in northern climates such as North America and Northern Europe . A major source of vitamin D is from its manufacture via a photolysis reaction in the skin and vitamin D synthesis from sunlight exposure is significantly less in northern climates. The second factor, which links vitamin D and IBD, is diet. Weight loss and vitamin D deficiency occurs in 65-75% of patients diagnosed with IBD. Whether vitamin D deficiency is a cause or an effect of IBD development is not known. We hypothesize and are presently in the process of determining whether vitamin D deficiency will exacerbate experimental IBD and whether supplementation with vitamin D will ameliorate symptoms of IBD.


Listing from PubMed


Two lineages of immune cells that differentially express the vitamin D receptor
Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cantorna, Margherita T., Arora, Juhi, 2023

Highlights from the 24th workshop on vitamin D in Austin, September 2022
Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Meyer, Mark B., Bernal-Mizrachi, Carlos, Bikle, Daniel D., Biyani, Madhu, Campbell, Moray J., Chaudhari, Snehal N., Christakos, Sylvia, Ingles, Sue A., Knuth, Megan M., Lee, Seong Min, Lisse, Thomas S., Liu, Eva S., Piec, Isabelle, Plum, Lori A., Rao, Sudhaker D., Reynolds, Carmen J., Thacher, Tom D., White, John H., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2023

Vitamin D, microbiota, and inflammatory bowel disease, Cantorna, Margherita T., Arora, Juhi, 2023

Vitamin D for COVID-19: where are we now?
Nature Reviews Immunology, Martineau, Adrian R., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2022

Novel insight into the role of the vitamin D receptor in the development and function of the immune system
Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Arora, Juhi, Wang, Jinpeng, Weaver, Veronika, Zhang, Yongwei, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2022

Vitamin D and the Ability to Produce 1,25(OH)2D Are Critical for Protection from Viral Infection of the Lungs
Nutrients, Arora, Juhi, Patel, Devanshi, Nicol, McKayla, Field, Cassandra, Restori, Katherine, Wang, Jinpeng, Froelich, Nicole, Katkere, Bhuvana, Terwilliger, Josey, Weaver, Veronika, others, None, Luley, Erin, Kelly, Kathleen, Kirimanjeswara, Girish S., Sutton, Troy, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2022

CCL27 is a crucial regulator of immune homeostasis of the skin and mucosal tissues
iScience, Davila, Micha, Xu, Ming, Huang, Chengyu, Gaddes, Erin, Winter, Levi, Cantorna, Margherita, Wang, Yong, Xiong, N, 2022

Transcriptional Profiling of the Small Intestine and the Colon Reveals Modulation of Gut Infection with Citrobacter rodentium According to the Vitamin A Status
Nutrients, Chai, Zhi, Lyu, Yafei, Chen, Q, Wei, Cheng-Hsin, Snyder, Lindsay, Snyder, I.M., Weaver, Veronika, Sebastian, Aswathy, Albert, Istv\'an, None, Albert, István, Li, Qunhua, Cantorna, Margherita, Ross, A, Ross, Catharine, others, None, 2022

RNAseq studies reveal distinct transcriptional response to vitamin A deficiency in small intestine versus colon, uncovering novel vitamin A-regulated genes
Nutrition Reports International, Chai, Zhi, Lyu, Yafei, Chen, Qiuyan, Wei, Cheng Hsin, Snyder, Lindsay M., Weaver, Veronika, Sebastian, Aswathy, Albert, István, Li, Qunhua, Cantorna, Margherita T., Ross, A. Catharine, 2021

Redefining the targets of the vitamin D receptor (VDR) utilizing a novel VDR reporter mouse.
The Journal of Immunology, Arora, Juhi, Cantorna, Margherita, 2021

Retinoid Signaling in Intestinal Epithelial Cells Is Essential for Early Survival From Gastrointestinal Infection
Frontiers in Immunology, Snyder, Lindsay M., Arora, Juhi, Kennett, Mary J., Weaver, Veronika, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2020

Highlights from the 22nd workshop on vitamin D in New York City, May 2019
Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Fleet, James C., Bernal-Mizrachi, Carlos, Hewison, Martin, Jorde, Rolf, White, John, Cantorna, Margherita, Schoenmakers, Inez, Erben, Reinhold, 2020

Aligning the Paradoxical Role of Vitamin D in Gastrointestinal Immunity
Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Cantorna, Margherita T., Rogers, Connie J., Arora, Juhi, 2019

Vitamin A and vitamin D regulate the microbial complexity, barrier function, and the mucosal immune responses to ensure intestinal homeostasis
Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cantorna, Margherita T., Snyder, Lindsay, Arora, Juhi, 2019

Vitamin D is required for ILC3 derived IL-22 and protection from Citrobacter rodentium infection
Frontiers in Immunology, Lin, Yang-Ding, Arora, Juhi, Diehl, Kevin, Bora, Stephanie, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2019

Retinoic acid mediated clearance of Citrobacter rodentium in vitamin A deficient mice requires CD11b+ and T cells
Frontiers in Immunology, Snyder, Lindsay M., McDaniel, Kaitlin L., Tian, Yuan, Wei, Cheng Hsin, Kennett, Mary J., Patterson, Andrew D., Catharine Ross, A., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2019

Isolation and Identification of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Modulators in White Button Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Tian, Yuan, Gui, Wei, Smith, Philip B., Koo, Imhoi, Murray, Iain A., Cantorna, Margherita, Perdew, Gary H., Patterson, Andrew D., 2019

RNAseq Studies Reveal Distinct Transcriptional Response to Vitamin a (VA) Deficiency in Small Intestine (SI) versus Colon, Discovering Novel VA-regulated Genes (P15-002-19).
Current developments in nutrition, Chai, Zhi, Lyu, Yafei, Chen, Q, Wei, Cheng-Hsin, Snyder, Lindsay, Weaver, Veronika, Li, Q, Cantorna, Margherita, Ross, A Catharine, None, Ross, A., 2019

Vitamin D Regulates the Microbiota to Control the Numbers of RORγt/FoxP3+ Regulatory T Cells in the Colon
Frontiers in Immunology, Cantorna, Margherita T., Lin, Yang Ding, Arora, Juhi, Bora, Stephanie, Tian, Yuan, Nichols, Robert G., Patterson, Andrew D., 2019

Neuroprotective role of the ron receptor tyrosine kinase underlying central nervous system inflammation in health and disease
Frontiers in Immunology, Dey, A, Allen, J, Fraser, J, Snyder, L, Tian, Yuan, Zhang, L, Paulson, Robert, Patterson, Andrew, Cantorna, Margherita T., Hankey-Giblin, Pamela A., 2018

Regulation of vitamin D metabolism following disruption of the microbiota using broad spectrum antibiotics
Nutrition Reports International, Bora, Stephanie, Kennett, M, Smith, P, Patterson, A, Cantorna, Margherita, 2018

The gut microbiota regulates endocrine vitamin D metabolism through fibroblast growth factor 23
Frontiers in Immunology, Bora, Stephanie, Kennett, M, Smith, Philip B., Patterson, Andrew D., Cantorna, Margherita, 2018

Vitamin A deficiency in mice alters host and gut microbial metabolism leading to altered energy homeostasis
Nutrition Reports International, Tian, Y, Nichols, R, Cai, Jingwei, Patterson, A, Cantorna, Margherita, 2018

Prebiotic effects of white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) feeding on succinate and intestinal gluconeogenesis in C57BL/6 mice
Journal of Functional Foods, Tian, Yuan, Nichols, Robert G., Roy, Pratiti, Gui, Wei, Smith, Philip B., Zhang, Jingtao, Lin, Yangding, Weaver, Veronika, Cai, Jingwei, Patterson, Andrew D., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2018

Vitamin D and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Cantorna, Margherita, Bruce, Danny, 2017

Control of circulating IgE by the Vitamin D receptor in vivo involves B cell intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms
Journal of Immunology, James, Jamaal, Weaver, Veronika, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2017

The Ron receptor tyrosine kinase plays a protective role in the development of CNS inflammation during health and disease states
The Journal of Immunology, Dey, Adwitia, Allen, Joselyn, Fraser, James, Snyder, Lindsay, Cantorna, Margherita, Paulson, R, Hankey-Giblin, Pamela, 2017

The role of UVR and Vitamin D on T cells and inflammatory bowel disease
Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences, Bora, Stephanie, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2017

IBD: Vitamin D and IBD: Moving towards clinical trials
Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2016

Vitamin D and lung infection
Infection and Immunity, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2016

Vitamin D deficiency results in fewer innate lymphoid cells and severe infection with Citrobacter rodentium.
The Journal of Immunology, Lin, Yang-Ding, Cantorna, Margherita, 2016

Vitamin D and 1,25(OH)2D regulation of T cells
Nutrients, Cantorna, Margherita T., Snyder, Lindsay, Lin, Yang Ding, Yang, Linlin, 2015

Vitamin A-deficient hosts become nonsymptomatic reservoirs of Escherichia coli-like enteric infections
Infection and Immunity, McDaniel, K, Restori, Katherine, Dodds, Jeffery W., Kennett, M, Ross, A. Catharine, Cantornaa, Margherita T., Cantorna, M, 2015

B cell intrinsic effects of the vitamin D receptor on IgE responses.(IRC10P. 417)
The Journal of Immunology, James, Jamaal, Cantorna, Margherita, 2015

Host vitamin D status is dependent on the microbiota.(MUC9P. 747)
The Journal of Immunology, Bora, Stephanie, Smith, P, Patterson, A, Cantorna, Margherita, 2015

Vitamin A deficiency creates persistent shedding of Citrobacter rodentium and potential reservoirs for the spread of enteric pathogens (MUC5P. 755)
The Journal of Immunology, McDaniel, Kaitlin, Restori, K, Dodds, J, Kennett, M, Ross, A, Cantorna, Margherita, 2015

Prepregnancy maternal vitamin d deficiency and placental development in mice
Placenta, Gernand, A, Cantorna, Margherita, Diaz, Francisco, Snyder, Lindsay, Hester, James, Vasudevan, Sreelakshmi, Kamat, Manasi, Ott, T, 2015

Vitamin D, immune regulation, the microbiota, and inflammatory bowel disease
Experimental Biology and Medicine, Cantorna, Margherita T., McDaniel, Kaitlin, Bora, Stephanie, Chen, Jing, James, Jamaal, 2014

Crucial role of macrophage selenoproteins in experimental colitis
Journal of Immunology, Kaushal, Naveen, Kudva, Avinash K., Patterson, Andrew D., Chiaro, Christopher, Kennett, Mary J., Desai, Dhimant, Amin, Shantu, Carlson, Bradley A., Cantorna, Margherita T., Prabhu, K. Sandeep, 2014

Vitamin D inhibits the occurrence of experimental cerebral malaria in mice by suppressing the host inflammatory response
Journal of Immunology, He, Xiyue, Yan, Juan, Zhu, Xiaotong, Wang, Qinghui, Pang, Wei, Qi, Zanmei, Wang, Meilian, Luo, Enjie, Parker, Daniel M., Cantorna, Margherita T., Cui, Liwang, Cao, Yaming, 2014

Streptococcus pneumoniae-induced pneumonia and citrobacter rodentium-induced gut infection differentially alter vitamin A concentrations in the lung and liver of mice
Journal of Nutrition, Restori, Katherine, McDaniel, K, Wray, A, Cantorna, Margherita T., Ross, A. Catharine, 2014

Mushrooms and health summit proceedings
Journal of Nutrition, Feeney, Mary Jo, Dwyer, Johanna, Hasler-Lewis, Clare M., Milner, John A., Noakes, Manny, Rowe, Sylvia, Wach, Mark, Beelman, Robert B., Caldwell, Joe, Cantorna, Margherita T., Castlebury, Lisa A., Chang, Shu Ting, Cheskin, Lawrence J., Clemens, Roger, Drescher, Greg, Fulgoni, Victor L., Haytowitz, David B., Hubbard, Van S., Law, David, Miller, Amy Myrdal, Minor, Bart, Percival, Susan S., Riscuta, Gabriela, Schneeman, Barbara, Thornsbury, Suzanne, Toner, Cheryl D., Woteki, Catherine E., Wu, Dayong, 2014

Dominant effects of the diet on the microbiome and the local and systemic immune response in mice
PLoS One, Ooi, Jot, Waddell, Amanda, Lin, Yang-Ding, Albert, Istvan, Rust, Laura, Holden, Victoria, Cantorna, Margherita, 2014

Metabolomics reveals the impact of vitamin D on the microbiome (MUC4P. 856)
The Journal of Immunology, Bora, Stephanie, Ooi, Jot, Smith, P, Patterson, A, Cantorna, Margherita, 2014

The vitamin D receptor turns off chronically activated T cells
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Cantorna, Margherita, Waddell, Amanda, 2014

Vitamin A deficient mice have a decreased ability to clear the enteric pathogen, Citrobacter rodentium and increased mortality during infection (MUC4P. 851)
The Journal of Immunology, McDaniel, Kaitlin, Restori, K, Kennett, M, Ross, A, Cantorna, Margherita, 2014

Murine CD8+ T cells but not macrophages express the vitamin D 1α-hydroxylase
Nutrition Reports International, Ooi, Jot Hui, McDaniel, Kaitlin L., Weaver, Veronika, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2014