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Life Extension Magazine August 2012

Vitamin E

HPLC analysis of vitamin E isoforms in human epidermis: correlation with minimal erythema dose and free radical scavenging activity.

The content and composition of different vitamin E isoforms was analyzed in normal human skin. Interestingly the epidermis contained 1% alpha-tocotrienol, 3% gamma-tocotrienol, 87% alpha-tocopherol, and 9% gamma-tocopherol. Although the levels of tocotrienol in human epidermis appear to be considerably lower than reported in the hairless mouse, the presence of significant amounts of tocotrienol levels leads to speculation about the physiological function of tocotrienols in skin. Besides antioxidant activity and photoprotection, tocotrienols may have skin barrier and growth-modulating properties. A good correlation was found for epidermal alpha-tocopherol (r = 0.7909, p <.0003), gamma-tocopherol (r = "0.556," p <.025), and the total vitamin E content (r = "0.831," p <.0001) with the free radical 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) scavenging in epidermis, as assessed by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. In human epidermis, alpha-tocopherol is quantitatively the most important vitamin E isoform present and comprises the bulk of first line free radical defense in the lipid compartment. Epidermal tocotrienol levels were not correlated with DPPH scavenging activity. The minimal erythema dose (MED), an individual measure for sun sensitivity and a crude indicator for skin cancer susceptibility, did not correlate with the epidermal content of the vitamin E isoforms. Hence it is concluded that vitamin E alone is not a determinant of individual photosensitivity in humans.

Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Feb 1;34(3):330-6

Vitamin E and its function in membranes.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is comprised of a family of hydrocarbon compounds characterised by a chromanol ring with a phytol side chain referred to as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Tocopherols possess a saturated phytol side chain whereas the side chain of tocotrienols have three unsaturated residues. Isomers of these compounds are distinguished by the number and arrangement of methyl substituents attached to the chromanol ring. The predominant isomer found in the body is alpha-tocopherol, which has three methyl groups in addition to the hydroxyl group attached to the benzene ring. The diet of animals is comprised of different proportions of tocopherol isomers and specific alpha-tocopherol-binding proteins are responsible for retention of this isomer in the cells and tissues of the body. Because of the lipophilic properties of the vitamin it partitions into lipid storage organelles and cell membranes. It is, therefore, widely distributed in throughout the body. Subcellular distribution of alpha-tocopherol is not uniform with lysosomes being particularly enriched in the vitamin compared to other subcellular membranes. Vitamin E is believed to be involved in a variety of physiological and biochemical functions. The molecular mechanism of these functions is believed to be mediated by either the antioxidant action of the vitamin or by its action as a membrane stabiliser. alpha-Tocopherol is an efficient scavenger of lipid peroxyl radicals and, hence, it is able to break peroxyl chain propagation reactions. The unpaired electron of the tocopheroxyl radical thus formed tends to be delocalised rendering the radical more stable. The radical form may be converted back to alpha-tocopherol in redox cycle reactions involving coenzyme Q. The regeneration of alpha-tocopherol from its tocopheroxyloxyl radical greatly enhances the turnover efficiency of alpha-tocopherol in its role as a lipid antioxidant. Vitamin E forms complexes with the lysophospholipids and free fatty acids liberated by the action of membrane lipid hydrolysis. Both these products form 1:1 stoichiometric complexes with vitamin E and as a consequence the overall balance of hydrophobic:hydrophillic affinity within the membrane is restored. In this way, vitamin E is thought to negate the detergent-like properties of the hydrolytic products that would otherwise disrupt membrane stability. The location and arrangement of vitamin E in biological membranes is presently unknown. There is, however, a considerable body of information available from studies of model membrane systems consisting of phospholipids dispersed in aqueous systems. From such studies using a variety of biophysical methods, it has been shown that alpha-tocopherol intercalates into phospholipid bilayers with the long axis of the molecule oriented parallel to the lipid hydrocarbon chains. The molecule is able to rotate about its long axis and diffuse laterally within fluid lipid bilayers. The vitamin does not distribute randomly throughout phospholipid bilayers but forms complexes of defined stoichiometry which coexist with bilayers of pure phospholipid. alpha-Tocopherol preferentially forms complexes with phosphatidylethanolamines rather than phosphatidylcholines, and such complexes more readily form nonlamellar structures. The fact that alpha-tocopherol does not distribute randomly throughout bilayers of phospholipid and tends to form nonbilayer complexes with phosphatidylethanolamines would be expected to reduce the efficiency of the vitamin in its action as a lipid antioxidant and to destabilise rather than stabilise membranes. The apparent disparity between putative functions of vitamin E in biological membranes and the behaviour in model membranes will need to be reconciled.

Prog Lipid Res. 1999 Jul;38(4):309-36

The pecking order of free radicals and antioxidants: lipid peroxidation, alpha-tocopherol, and ascorbate.

Free radicals vary widely in their thermodynamic properties, ranging from very oxidizing to very reducing. These thermodynamic properties can be used to predict a pecking order, or hierarchy, for free radical reactions. Using one-electron reduction potentials, the predicted pecking order is in agreement with experimentally observed free radical electron (hydrogen atom) transfer reactions. These potentials are also in agreement with experimental data that suggest that vitamin E, the primary lipid soluble small molecule antioxidant, and vitamin C, the terminal water soluble small molecule antioxidant, cooperate to protect lipids and lipid structures against peroxidation. Although vitamin E is located in membranes and vitamin C is located in aqueous phases, vitamin C is able to recycle vitamin E; i.e., vitamin C repairs the tocopheroxyl (chromanoxyl) radical of vitamin E, thereby permitting vitamin E to function again as a free radical chain-breaking antioxidant. This review discusses: (i) the thermodynamics of free radical reactions that are of interest to the health sciences; (ii) the fundamental thermodynamic and kinetic properties that are associated with chain-breaking antioxidants; (iii) the unique interfacial nature of the apparent reaction of the tocopherol free radical (vitamin E radical) and vitamin C; and (iv) presents a hierarchy, or pecking order, for free radical electron (hydrogen atom) transfer reactions.

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1993 Feb 1;300(2):535-43

Alpha-Lipoic acid as a biological antioxidant.

alpha-Lipoic acid, which plays an essential role in mitochondrial dehydrogenase reactions, has recently gained considerable attention as an antioxidant. Lipoate, or its reduced form, dihydrolipoate, reacts with reactive oxygen species such as superoxide radicals, hydroxyl radicals, hypochlorous acid, peroxyl radicals, and singlet oxygen. It also protects membranes by interacting with vitamin C and glutathione, which may in turn recycle vitamin E. In addition to its antioxidant activities, dihydrolipoate may exert prooxidant actions through reduction of iron. alpha-Lipoic acid administration has been shown to be beneficial in a number of oxidative stress models such as ischemia-reperfusion injury, diabetes (both alpha-lipoic acid and dihydrolipoic acid exhibit hydrophobic binding to proteins such as albumin, which can prevent glycation reactions), cataract formation, HIV activation, neurodegeneration, and radiation injury. Furthermore, lipoate can function as a redox regulator of proteins such as myoglobin, prolactin, thioredoxin and NF-kappa B transcription factor. We review the properties of lipoate in terms of (1) reactions with reactive oxygen species; (2) interactions with other antioxidants; (3) beneficial effects in oxidative stress models or clinical conditions.

Free Radic Biol Med. 1995 Aug;19(2):227-50

Molecular aspects of alpha-tocotrienol antioxidant action and cell signalling.

Vitamin E, the most important lipid-soluble antioxidant, was discovered at the University of California at Berkeley in 1922 in the laboratory of Herbert M. Evans (Science 1922, 55: 650). At least eight vitamin E isoforms with biological activity have been isolated from plant sources. Since its discovery, mainly antioxidant and recently also cell signaling aspects of tocopherols and tocotrienols have been studied. Tocopherols and tocotrienols are part of an interlinking set of antioxidant cycles, which has been termed the antioxidant network. Although the antioxidant activity of tocotrienols is higher than that of tocopherols, tocotrienols have a lower bioavailability after oral ingestion. Tocotrienols penetrate rapidly through skin and efficiently combat oxidative stress induced by UV or ozone. Tocotrienols have beneficial effects in cardiovascular diseases both by inhibiting LDL oxidation and by down-regulating 3-hydroxyl-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG CoA) reductase, a key enzyme of the mevalonate pathway. Important novel antiproliferative and neuroprotective effects of tocotrienols, which may be independent of their antioxidant activity, have also been described.

J Nutr. 2001 Feb;131(2):369S-73S

Suppression of gamma- tocotrienol on UVB induced inflammation in HaCaT keratinocytes and HR-1 hairless mice via inflammatory mediators multiple signaling.

Tocopherol (Toc) such as alpha-Toc has been expected to act as photochemopreventive agent of skin, but the effect of the other vitamin E forms [tocotrienols (T3)] has not been fully understood. We evaluated the anti-inflammatory effect of T3 on UVB-induced inflammatory reaction using immortalized human keratinocytes and hairless mice. gamma-T3 suppressed UVB-induced PGE(2) production while similar alpha-Toc doses had no effect. The anti-inflammatory actions of gamma-T3 were explained by its ability to reduce UVB-induced inflammatory gene and protein expression [cyclooxgenase-2 (COX-2), interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, and monocyte chemotactic protein-1]. Western blot analysis revealed gamma-T3 inhibited p38, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase/stress-activated protein kinase activation. In HR-1 hairless mice, oral T3 suppressed UVB-induced changes in skin thickness, COX-2 protein expression, and hyperplasia, but alpha-Toc did not. These results suggest T3 has potential use to protect against UVB-induced skin inflammation.

J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Jun 9;58(11):7013-20

Vitamin E: function and metabolism.

Although vitamin E has been known as an essential nutrient for reproduction since 1922, we are far from understanding the mechanisms of its physiological functions. Vitamin E is the term for a group of tocopherols and tocotrienols, of which alpha-tocopherol has the highest biological activity. Due to the potent antioxidant properties of tocopherols, the impact of alpha-tocopherol in the prevention of chronic diseases believed to be associated with oxidative stress has often been studied, and beneficial effects have been demonstrated. Recent observations that the alpha-tocopherol transfer protein in the liver specifically sorts out RRR-alpha-tocopherol from all incoming tocopherols for incorporation into plasma lipoproteins, and that alpha-tocopherol has signaling functions in vascular smooth muscle cells that cannot be exerted by other forms of tocopherol with similar antioxidative properties, have raised interest in the roles of vitamin E beyond its antioxidative function. Also, gamma-tocopherol might have functions apart from being an antioxidant. It is a nucleophile able to trap electrophilic mutagens in lipophilic compartments and generates a metabolite that facilitates natriuresis. The metabolism of vitamin E is equally unclear. Excess alpha-tocopherol is converted into alpha-CEHC and excreted in the urine. Other tocopherols, like gamma- and delta-tocopherol, are almost quantitatively degraded and excreted in the urine as the corresponding CEHCs. All rac alpha-tocopherol compared to RRR-alpha-tocopherol is preferentially degraded to alpha-CEHC. Thus, there must be a specific, molecular role of RRR-alpha-tocopherol that is regulated by a system that sorts, distributes, and degrades the different forms of vitamin E, but has not yet been identified. In this article we try to summarize current knowledge on the function of vitamin E, with emphasis on its antioxidant vs. other properties, the preference of the organism for RRR-alpha-tocopherol, and its metabolism to CEHCs.

FASEB J. 1999 Jul;13(10):1145-55

Vitamin E in human health and disease.

Vitamin E in nature is comprised of a family of tocopherols and tocotrienols. The most studied of these is alpha-tocopherol (alpha-TOH), because this form is retained within the body, and vitamin E deficiency is corrected with this supplement. alpha-TOH is a lipid-soluble antioxidant required for the preservation of cell membranes, and it potentially acts as a defense against oxidative stress. Many studies have investigated the metabolism, transport, and efficacy alpha-TOH in the prevention of sequelae associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Supplementation with vitamin E is considered to provide health benefits against CVD through its antioxidant activity, the prevention of lipoprotein oxidation, and the inhibition of platelet aggregation. However, the results from large prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials with alpha-TOH have been largely negative. A recent meta-analysis suggests that alpha-TOH supplements may actually increase all-cause mortality; however, the mechanism for this increased risk is unknown. In vitro studies performed in human cell cultures and animal models suggest that vitamin E might increase the hepatic production of cytochrome P450s and MDR1. Induction of CYP3A4 or MDR1 by vitamin E could potentially lower the efficacy of any drug metabolized by CYP3A4 or MDR1. Other possibilities include an adverse effect of alpha-TOH on blood pressure in high-risk populations. Because of the wide popularity and use of vitamin E supplements, further research into potential adverse effects is clearly warranted.

Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2008;45(5):417-50

Free radical recycling and intramembrane mobility in the antioxidant properties of alpha-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol.

d-Alpha-tocopherol (2R,4'R, 8'R-Alpha-tocopherol) and d-alpha- tocotrienol are two vitamin E constituents having the same aromatic chromanol “head” but differing in their hydrocarbon “tail”: tocopherol with a saturated and toctrienol with an unsaturated isoprenoid chain. d-Alpha-tocopherol has the highest vitamin E activity, while d-alpha-tocotrienol manifests only about 30% of this activity. Since vitamin E is considered to be physiologically the most important lipid-soluble chain-breaking antioxidant of membranes, we studied alpha-tocotrienol as compared to alpha-tocopherol under conditions which are important for their antioxidant function. d-Alpha-tocotrienol possesses 40-60 times higher antioxidant activity against (Fe2+ + ascorbate)- and (Fe2+ + NADPH)-induced lipid peroxidation in rat liver microsomal membranes and 6.5 times better protection of cytochrome P-450 against oxidative damage than d-alpha-tocopherol. To clarify the mechanisms responsible for the much higher antioxidant potency of d-alpha-tocotrienol compared to d-alpha-tocopherol, ESR studies were performed of recycling efficiency of the chromanols from their chromanoxyl radicals. 1H-NMR measurements of lipid molecular mobility in liposomes containing chromanols, and fluorescence measurements which reveal the uniformity of distribution (clusterizations) of chromanols in the lipid bilayer. From the results, we concluded that this higher antioxidant potency of d-alpha-tocotrienol is due to the combined effects of three properties exhibited by d-alpha-tocotrienol as compared to d-alpha-tocopherol: (i) its higher recycling efficiency from chromanoxyl radicals, (ii) its more uniform distribution in membrane bilayer, and (iii) its stronger disordering of membrane lipids which makes interaction of chromanols with lipid radicals more efficient. The data presented show that there is a considerable discrepancy between the relative in vitro antioxidant activity of d-alpha-tocopherol and d-alpha-tocotrienol with the conventional bioassays of their vitamin activity.

Free Radic Biol Med. 1991;10(5):263-75