Vitamin C in Stem Cell Reprogramming and Cancer

Trends Cell Biol. 2018 Sep;28(9):698-708. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 Apr 30.


Vitamin C is an essential dietary requirement for humans. In addition to its known role as an antioxidant, vitamin C is a cofactor for Fe2+- and α-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenases (Fe2+/α-KGDDs) which comprise a large number of diverse enzymes, including collagen prolyl hydroxylases and epigenetic regulators of histone and DNA methylation. Vitamin C can modulate embryonic stem cell (ESC) function, enhance reprogramming of fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and hinder the aberrant self-renewal of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) through its ability to enhance the activity of either Jumonji C (JmjC) domain-containing histone demethylases or ten-eleven translocation (TET) DNA hydroxylases. Given that epigenetic dysregulation is a known driver of malignancy, vitamin C may play a novel role as an epigenetic anticancer agent.

Keywords: TET proteins; cancer; epigenetics; methylation; stem cells; vitamin C.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism*
  • Cellular Reprogramming*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Ascorbic Acid