Retinol Binding Protein, Sunlight Hours, and the Influenza Virus-Specific Immune Response

Nehali Patel, Rhiannon R. Penkert, Robert E. Sealy, Sherri L. Surman, Bart G. Jones, Karen Ringwald-Smith, A. Catharine Ross, Julia L. Hurwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Healthy pediatric immune responses depend on adequate vitamin A and D levels. Relationships between solar ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation and vitamin D are well understood, while relationships between sunlight, vitamin A, and its serum escort, retinol binding protein (RBP), are not. A pediatric clinical study enrolled 2–8-year-old children at various times between September 2016 and March 2017, inclusive, in Memphis, Tennessee. A serum sample from each child was then assayed to examine the influence of season on vitamin levels. We found that RBP and RBP/retinol molar ratios decreased in winter months and RBP/retinol ratios correlated positively with the average daily sunlight hours per month. A food frequency questionnaire given to parents/guardians indicated a shift in dietary intake from plant-based foods to animal-based foods by children between winter and spring months. This translated to higher retinol and zinc (integral to RBP–transthyretin–retinol complexes) in the spring, perhaps explaining the seasonal influence on RBP/retinol. RBP and retinol were associated positively with IgG/IgM and IgA/IgM ratios. RBP and retinol, but not 25(OH)D, also correlated positively with influenza virus-specific antibodies. Retinol correlated negatively, while 25(OH)D correlated positively, with certain serum cytokine/chemokine levels. Significant differences in 25(OH)D, immunoglobulin ratios, and cytokines/chemokines were observed between black and white children. In sum, seasonal changes in dietary foods rich in retinol and zinc may have influenced RBP levels, which in turn influenced innate and adaptive immune responses. Results encourage routine monitoring and reporting of season, RBP, and vitamin levels in future clinical studies, as seasons may affect sunlight exposures, diet, vitamin levels, and immune protection against infectious disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2322
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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