Vitamin K and the nervous system: an overview of its actions

Adv Nutr. 2012 Mar 1;3(2):204-12. doi: 10.3945/an.111.001784.


The role of vitamin K in the nervous system has been somewhat neglected compared with other physiological systems despite the fact that this nutrient was identified some 40 y ago as essential for the synthesis of sphingolipids. Present in high concentrations in brain cell membranes, sphingolipids are now known to possess important cell signaling functions in addition to their structural role. In the past 20 y, additional support for vitamin K functions in the nervous system has come from the discovery and characterization of vitamin K-dependent proteins that are now known to play key roles in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Notably, protein Gas6 has been shown to be actively involved in cell survival, chemotaxis, mitogenesis, and cell growth of neurons and glial cells. Although limited in number, studies focusing on the relationship between vitamin K nutritional status and behavior and cognition have also become available, pointing to diet and certain drug treatments (i.e., warfarin derivatives) as potential modulators of the action of vitamin K in the nervous system. This review presents an overview of the research that first identified vitamin K as an important nutrient for the nervous system and summarizes recent findings that support this notion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Peripheral Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Protein S / pharmacology
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Sphingolipids / metabolism
  • Vitamin K / pharmacology*


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Protein S
  • Sphingolipids
  • growth arrest-specific protein 6
  • Vitamin K