Margherita T Cantorna, Ph.D.

Margherita T Cantorna, Ph.D.

  • Distinguished Professor of Molecular Immunology
108 Research Building A
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


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 T., Perdew, Gary H., Patterson, Andrew D., 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, Snyder, Lori, Arora, J, 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

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 A., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2019

Regulation of vitamin D metabolism following disruption of the microbiota using broad spectrum antibiotics
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Bora, Stephanie A., Kennett, Mary J., Smith, Philip B., Patterson, Andrew David, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 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 David, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2018

Vitamin A deficiency in mice alters host and gut microbial metabolism leading to altered energy homeostasis
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Tian, Yuan, Nichols, Robert G., Cai, Jingwei, Patterson, Andrew David, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2018

Neuroprotective role of the ron receptor tyrosine kinase underlying central nervous system inflammation in health and disease
Frontiers in immunology, Dey, Adwitia, Allen, Joselyn N., Fraser, James W., Snyder, Lindsay M., Tian, Yuan, Zhang, Limin, Paulson, Robert F., Patterson, Andrew, Cantorna, Margherita T., Hankey-Giblin, Pamela A., 2018

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

Retinoic acid mediated clearance of Citrobacter rodentium in vitamin A deficient mice requires CD11b+ and T cells
Frontiers in immunology, Snyder, Lindsay, McDaniel, Kaitlin, Tian, Yuan, Wei, Cheng-Hsin, Kennett, Mary, Patterson, Andrew, Ross, A Catharine, None, Cantorna, Margherita, 2018

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 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 & hepatology, Cantorna, Margherita, 2016

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

Dysbiosis caused by vitamin D receptor deficiency confers colonization resistance to Citrobacter rodentium through modulation of innate lymphoid cells
Mucosal Immunology, Chen, J., Waddell, A., Lin, Y. D., Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2015

NKT cells can help mediate the protective effects of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in mice
International Immunology, Waddell, Amanda, Zhao, Jun, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2015

Vitamin D and 1,25(OH)2D regulation of T cells.
Nutrients, Cantorna, Margherita, Snyder, Lori, Lin, Y, Yang, L, 2015

Vitamin A-deficient hosts become nonsymptomatic reservoirs of Escherichia coli-like enteric infections
Infection and Immunity, McDaniel, Kaitlin L., Restori, Katherine H., Dodds, Jeffery, Kennett, Mary J., Ross, A. Catharine, Cantornaa, Margherita T., 2015

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

The vitamin D receptor turns off chronically activated T cells
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Cantorna, Margherita T., Waddell, Amanda, 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 H., McDaniel, Kaitlin L., Wray, Amanda E., Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, Ross, A. Catharine, 2014

Vitamin D receptor expression controls proliferation of naïve CD8+ T cells and development of CD8 mediated gastrointestinal inflammation
BMC Immunology, Chen, Jing, Bruce, Danny, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2014

Dominant effects of the diet on the microbiome and the local and systemic immune response in mice
PloS one, Ooi, Jot Hui, Waddell, Amanda, Lin, Yang Ding, Albert, Istvan, Rust, Laura T., Holden, Victoria, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2014

Murine CD8+ T cells but not macrophages express the vitamin D 1α-hydroxylase
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Ooi, Jot Hui, McDaniel, Kaitlin L., Weaver, Veronika, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 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 Teresa-Anna, 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

Therapeutic effect of vitamin d supplementation in a pilot study of crohn's patients
Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, Yang, Linlin, Weaver, Veronika, Smith, Jill P., Bingaman, Sandra, Hartman, Terryl Johnson, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2013

Vitamin D regulates the gut microbiome and protects mice from dextran sodium sulfate-induced coliti
Journal of Nutrition, Ooi, Jot Hui, Li, Yunfei, Rogers, Connie J., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2013

White Button mushrooms increase microbialdiversity and accelerate the resolution of Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice
Journal of Nutrition, Varshney, Jyotika, Ooi, Jot Hui, Jayarao, Bhushan M., Albert, Istvan, Fisher, Jenny, Smith, Rhonda L., Patterson, Andrew D., Cantorna, Margherita T., 2013

Differential expression of microRNAs in exhaled breath condensates of patients with asthma, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and healthy adults
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Pinkerton, Mark, Chinchilli, Vernon, Banta, Erin, Craig, Timothy, August, Avery, Bascom, Rebecca, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, Harvill, Eric Thomas, Ishmael, Faoud, 2013

Vitamin D, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Archives of biochemistry and biophysics, Cantorna, Margherita, 2012

Vitamin D, invariant natural killer T-cells and experimental autoimmune disease
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Cantorna, Margherita T., Zhao, Jun, Yang, Linlin, 2012

Vitamin D regulation of immune function in the gut: why do T cells have vitamin D receptors?
Molecular aspects of medicine, Ooi, J, Chen, Jin, Cantorna, Margherita, 2012

The role of vitamin D and vitamin D receptor in immunity to Leishmania major infection
Journal of Parasitology Research, Whitcomb, James P., Deagostino, Mary, Ballentine, Mark, Fu, Jun, Tenniswood, Martin, Welsh, Joellen, Cantorna, Margherita, McDowell, Mary Ann, 2012

Invariant NKT cell defects in vitamin D receptor knockout mice prevents experimental lung inflammation
Journal of Immunology, Yu, Sanhong, Zhao, Jun, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2011

Converging pathways lead to overproduction of IL-17 in the absence of vitamin D signaling.
International immunology, Bruce, D, Yu, Shaoyong, Ooi, J, Cantorna, Margherita, 2011

Intrinsic requirement for the vitamin D receptor in the development of CD8αα-expressing T cells
Journal of Immunology, Bruce, Danny, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2011

Epigenetic reduction in invariant NKT cells following in utero vitamin D deficiency in mice
Journal of Immunology, Yu, Sanhong, Cantorna, Margherita Teresa-Anna, 2011

Interleukin-2-inducible T cell kinase (Itk) network edge dependence for the maturation of iNKT cell
Journal of Biological Chemistry, Qi, Qian, Xia, Mingcan, Bai, Yuting, Yu, Sanhong, Cantorna, Margherita, August, Avery, 2011

Why do T cells express the vitamin D receptor?
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2011

Mechanisms underlying the effect of vitamin D on the immune system
Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Cantorna, Margherita T., 2010

Vitamin D and host resistance to infection? Putting the cart in front of the horse.
Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.), Bruce, D, Ooi, J, Yu, Shaoyong, Cantorna, Margherita, 2010

UK food standards agency workshop report
British Journal of Nutrition, Sanderson, Peter, Elsom, Rachel L., Kirkpatrick, Verity, Calder, Philip C., Woodside, Jayne V., Williams, Elizabeth A., Rink, Lothar, Fairweather-Tait, Susan, Ivory, Kamal, Cantorna, Margherita, Watzl, Bernhard, Stone, Elaine M., 2010