How do blood vitamin D levels change immune cells?

  • Project Lead

    Dr Melissa Gressle
    T: +61 3 83443 278
    Location: Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital

Project Details

The strongest environmental risk factor for MS is the latitudinal gradient of residence. In Australia, this means that someone growing up in Tasmania is 7 times more likely to get MS than a person in North Queensland. It is very likely that this is, at least in part, due to lower levels of Vitamin D, which is produced by sun exposure in the skin. 

It is not known why low vitamin D is a risk factor for MS, but one thought is that vitamin D could change immune cells to prevent the development of MS.  We are trying to understand how vitamin D changes the immune system to prevent the development of MS.



  • Judith Field, Florey Neuroscience Institute
  • Laura Johnson, Florey Neuroscience Institute
  • Alan Baxter, James Cook University
  • Margaret Jordan, James Cook University
  • Tim Spelman, Burnett Institute and University of Melbourne
  • MS Unit, Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Eastern Clinical Research Unit, Box-Hill Hospital
  • David Booth, Westmead Millenium Institute


  • Gresle2015-2016Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia postdoctoral research fellowship
  • Butzkueven2015-2019NHMRC Practitioner fellowship
  • Butzkueven, Gresle2015Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia incubator grant
  • Vuong  2015    Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia summer studentship
  • Butzkueven2015Biogen Idec global commercial investigator initiated research support
  • Butzkueven2015Novartis IIT
  • Butzkueven, et al2012-2014NHMRC Project Grant
  • Butzkueven et al2011-2013ARC Linkage Grant

Research Opportunities

This research project is available to PhD students to join as part of their thesis.
Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.

Research Outcomes

  1. Blocking LINGO-1 in vivo reduces degeneration and enhances regeneration of the optic nerve
    Gresle MM, Liu Y, Kilpatrick TJ, Kemper  D, Wu QZ, Hu B, Fu QL, So KF, Sheng G,  Huang G, Pepinsky B, Butzkueven H and Mi S. Multiple Sclerosis Journal Experimental, Translational
    and Clinical 2016: 2: 1-13
  2. Common and Low Frequency Variants in MERTK Are Independently Associated with Multiple Sclerosis Susceptibility with Discordant Association Dependent upon HLA-DRB1*15:01 Status.Binder MD, Fox AD, Merlo D, Johnson LJ, Giuffrida L, Calvert SE, Akkermann R, Ma GZ; ANZgene, Perera AA, Gresle MM, Laverick L, Foo G, Fabis-Pedrini MJ, Spelman T, Jordan MA, Baxter AG, Foote S, Butzkueven H, Kilpatrick TJ, Field J.PLoS Genet. 2016 Mar 18;12(3):e1005853.
  3. Field J, Shahijanian F, Schibeci S; Australia and New Zealand MS Genetics Consortium (ANZgene), Johnson L, Gresle M, Laverick L, Parnell G, Stewart G, McKay F, Kilpatrick T, Butzkueven H, Booth D. The MS Risk Allele of CD40 Is Associated with Reduced CellMembrane Bound Expression in Antigen Presenting Cells: Implications for Gene Function. PLoS One. 2015 Jun 11;10(6):e0127080.

Research Publications

  1. A rare P2X7 variant Arg307Gln with absent pore formation function protects against neuroinflammation in multiple sclerosis. Gu BJ, Field J, Dutertre S, Ou A, Kilpatrick T, Lechner-Scott J, Scott R, Lea R, Taylor BV, Stankovich J, Butzkueven H, Gresle M, Laws SM, Petrou S, Hoffjan S, Akkad DA, Graham CA, Hawkins S, Glaser A, Bedri SK, Hillert J, Matute C, Antiguedad A; ANZgene Consortium, Wiley JS. Hum Mol Genet. 2015 Jul 17. pii: ddv278. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Galanin is an autocrine myelin and oligodendrocyte trophic signal induced by Leukemia inhibitory Factor. Gresle MM  (equal contribution), Butzkueven H (equal contribution), Perreau VM, Jonas A, Thiem S, Holmes F, Doherty W, Soo PY, Binder M, Akkermann R, Jokubaitis V, Cate H, Marriott M, Xiao J, Gundlach A, Wynick D and Kilpatrick TJ. Glia. 2015 2015 Jun;63:1005-1020.  
  3. Axonally-derived matrillin-2 induces pro-inflammatory responses that exacerbate autoimmune neuroinflammation. Jonas A, Thiem S, Kuhlmann T, Wagener R, Aszodi A, Nowell C, Hagemeier K, Laverick L, Perreau VP, Jokubaitis VJ, Emery B, Kilpatrick TJ, Butzkueven H (equal contribution), Gresle M (equal contribution). Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2014;124:5042-5056.  
  4. Serum neurofilament-heavy chain levels in multiple sclerosis patients. Gresle MM, Liu Y, Dagley LF; Haartsen J, Pearson F; Purcell A; Laverick L, Petzold, A, Lucas RM; Van der Walt A, Prime H; Morris D; Taylor BV, on behalf of the Ausimmune Consortium; Shaw G, Butzkueven, H. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2014 Mar 17. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2013-306789. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Ceruloplasmin gene deficient mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis show attenuated early disease evolution. Gresle M; Schulz K; Jonas A; Perreau V; Cipriani T; Baxter A; Miranda-Hernandez S; Field J; Jokubiaits V; Cherny R; Volitakis I; David S; Kilpatrick TJ; and  Butzkueven H. J Neurosci Res. 2014;92:732-742.

Research Group

Multiple Sclerosis Outcomes and Prognostics Team

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Medicine and Radiology

Unit / Centre

Multiple Sclerosis Outcomes and Prognostics Team