Present trends in vitamin E research

Biofactors. Jan-Feb 2010;36(1):33-42. doi: 10.1002/biof.75.


Nearly after one century of research and thousands of publications, the physiological function(s) of vitamin E remain unclear. Available evidence suggests a role in cell homeostasis that occurs through the modulation of specific signaling pathways and genes involved in proliferative, metabolic, inflammatory, and antioxidant pathways. Vitamin E presence in the human body is under close metabolic control so that only alpha-tocopherol and, to a lower extent, gamma-tocopherol are retained and delivered to tissues. Other vitamin E forms that are not retained in the body in significant amounts, exhibit responses in vitro that are different form those of alpha-tocopherol and may include tumor cell specific toxicity and apoptosis. These responses provide a therapeutic potential for these minor forms, either as such or metabolically modified, to produce bioactive metabolites. These cellular effects go beyond the properties of lipophilic antioxidant attributed to alpha-tocopherol particularly investigated for its alleged protective role in atherosclerosis or other oxidative stress conditions. Understanding signaling and gene expression effects of vitamin E could help assign a physiological role to this vitamin, which will be discussed in this review. Besides vitamin E signaling, attention will be given to tocotrienols as one of the emerging topics in vitamin E research and a critical re-examination of the most recent clinical trials will be provided together with the potential use of vitamin E in disease prevention and therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Chromans / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity / drug effects
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Phosphorylation
  • Propionates / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Tocotrienols / metabolism
  • Vitamin E / physiology*
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin E / toxicity


  • Chromans
  • Propionates
  • Tocotrienols
  • Vitamin E
  • 2,7,8-trimethyl-2-(beta-carboxyethyl)-6-hydroxychroman
  • 2,5,7,8-tetramethyl-2-(2'-carboxyethyl)-6-hydroxychroman