Molecular aspects of alpha-tocotrienol antioxidant action and cell signalling

J Nutr. 2001 Feb;131(2):369S-73S. doi: 10.1093/jn/131.2.369S.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Biological Availability
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases / drug effects
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / drug effects
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Tocotrienols
  • Vitamin E / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin E / pharmacokinetics
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Tocotrienols
  • Vitamin E
  • Cholesterol
  • tocotrienol, alpha
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl CoA Reductases