University of Florida

Dr. Corwin D. Nelson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Summary

The overall goal of Dr. Nelson’s research is to minimize the impact of infectious diseases in livestock through understanding how genetic and environmental factors influence the immune system.  Dr. Nelson’s research concentrates on the influence and regulation of vitamin D signaling in the immune system with an emphasis on mastitis in dairy cattle.  Studies with an experimental model of mastitis in dairy cattle have revealed that the vitamin D pathway is activated in the udder in response to bacterial infection and ultimately functions to improve resistance to bacterial infection (Nelson 2010 and Lippolis 2011).  In this pathway, 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 is converted to the active vitamin D hormone, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, by the 1α-25-hydroxyvitamin D hydroxylase (1α-OHase/CYP27B1) in the macrophage.  The 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 produced in the bovine macrophage acts in an intracrine and paracrine manner to improve host defense and limit inflammation.

The presence of a vitamin D signaling mechanism in the immune system has profound implications for animal and human health.  For instance, vitamin D insufficiency may impair immune function, and the ability of the vitamin D hormone to suppress inflammation and improve host defense allows the potential for alternative preventative and therapeutic strategies.  The influence of the vitamin D pathway on immunity and how it is regulated, however, is only partially understood which limits efforts to support immunity through the vitamin D pathway.  Therefore, primary efforts of Dr. Nelson’s research are to 1) identify targets of the vitamin D hormone and the physiological significance of those targets in the immune system, and 2) identify the genetic, epigenetic and environmental (i.e. nutritional and pathogen) influences on vitamin D metabolism and the molecular basis of those influences.  This research is carried out using molecular and physiological approaches primarily in cattle with an emphasis on addressing the issue of mastitis in dairy cattle. This research ultimately serves to benefit the livestock industry, ensure adequate food supply, and advance human health through increasing basic knowledge of animal physiology.


August, 2010, Ph.D., (Biochemistry and Immunobiology), Iowa State University, Ames, IA

May, 2006, B.S., (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, MN

Academic Positions Since Final Degree:

June, 2013-present, Assistant Professor of Physiology, Department of Animal Sciences, Univeristy of Florida, Gainesville, FL

June, 2010-May,2013, Postdoc, Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Professional Memberships

American Association of Immunologists
American Dairy Science Association
American Society of Nutrition
National Mastitis Council



Corwin D. Nelson Ph.D.

PO Box 110910
Gainesville, FL 32611

2250 Shealy Dr.
Gainesville, FL 32611