Vitamin K distribution in rat tissues: dietary phylloquinone is a source of tissue menaquinone-4

Br J Nutr. 1994 Sep;72(3):415-25. doi: 10.1079/bjn19940043.


The present study was undertaken to determine whether there is selective tissue distribution of vitamin K in the rat and whether this distribution mirrors the distribution of tissue vitamin K metabolism. The effects of feeding a vitamin K-free diet followed by resupplementation with phylloquinone (K1) were studied. K1 was recovered in all tissues. In K1-supplemented rats, most tissues accumulated K1 relative to plasma K1 with the highest levels in liver, heart, bone, and cartilaginous tissue (sternum). Low K1 levels were found in the brain. In the K1-free rats, relatively high K1 levels were still found in heart, pancreas, bone and sternum. Surprisingly, menaquinone-4 (MK-4) was detected in all tissues, with low levels in plasma and liver, and much higher levels in pancreas, salivary gland and sternum. MK-4 levels exceeded K1 levels in brain, pancreas, salivary gland and sternum. Supplementation with K1, orally and by intravenous infusion, caused MK-4 levels to rise. Some accumulation of K1 and MK-4 in the mitochondrial fraction was found for kidney, pancreas and salivary gland. In the liver the higher menaquinones (MK-6-9) accumulated in the mitochondria. The results indicate that: (1) there is selective tissue distribution of K1 and MK-4, (2) dietary K1 is a source of MK-4. The results also suggest there may be an as yet unrecognized physiological function for vitamin K (MK-4).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet
  • Male
  • Prothrombin Time
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Vitamin K / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin K / metabolism
  • Vitamin K / pharmacokinetics*
  • Vitamin K 1 / metabolism
  • Vitamin K 2 / analogs & derivatives


  • Vitamin K 2
  • Vitamin K
  • menatetrenone
  • Vitamin K 1