Vitamin K, an emerging nutrient in brain function

Biofactors. 2012 Mar-Apr;38(2):151-7. doi: 10.1002/biof.1004. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Historically discovered for its role in blood coagulation, there is now convincing evidence that vitamin K has important actions in the nervous system. As a unique cofactor to the γ-glutamyl carboxylase enzyme, vitamin K contributes to the biological activation of proteins Gas6 and protein S, ligands for the receptor tyrosine kinases of the TAM family (Tyro3, Axl, and Mer). Functionally, Gas6 has been involved in a wide range of cellular processes that include cell growth, survival, and apoptosis. In brain, vitamin K also participates in the synthesis of sphingolipids, an important class of lipids present in high concentrations in brain cell membranes. In addition to their structural role, sphingolipids are now known to partake in important cellular events such as proliferation, differentiation, senescence and cell-cell interactions. In recent years, studies have linked alterations in sphingolipid metabolism to age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Emerging data also point to unique actions of the K vitamer menaquinone-4 (MK-4) against oxidative stress and inflammation. Finally, there is now data to suggest that vitamin K has the potential to influence psychomotor behavior and cognition. This review presents an overview of what is known of the role of vitamin K in brain function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism
  • Vitamin K / metabolism*


  • Sphingolipids
  • Vitamin K