Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for humans and is converted to the visual chromophore, 11-cis-retinal, and to the hormone, retinoic acid. Vitamin A in animal-derived foods is found as long chain acyl esters of retinol and these are digested to free fatty acids and retinol before uptake by the intestinal mucosal cell. The retinol is then reesterified to retinyl esters for incorporation into chlylomicrons and absorbed via the lymphatics or effluxed into the portal circulation facilitated by the lipid transporter, ABCA1. Provitamin A carotenoids such as β-carotene are found in plant-derived foods. These and other carotenoids are transported into the mucosal cell by scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI). Provitamin A carotenoids are partly converted to retinol by oxygenase and reductase enzymes and the retinol so produced is available for absorption via the two pathways described above. The efficiency of vitamin A and carotenoid intestinal absorption is determined by the regulation of a number of proteins involved in the process. Polymorphisms in genes for these proteins lead to individual variability in the metabolism and transport of vitamin A and carotenoids. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Retinoid and Lipid Metabolism.
© 2012. Published by Elsevier B.V.