Vitamin K status in human tissues: tissue-specific accumulation of phylloquinone and menaquinone-4

Br J Nutr. 1996 Jan;75(1):121-7. doi: 10.1079/bjn19960115.


We measured the vitamin K status in postmortem human tissues (brain, heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas) to see if there is a tissue-specific distribution pattern. Phylloquinone (K1) was recovered in all tissues with relatively high levels in liver, heart and pancreas (medians, 10.6 (4.8), 9.3 (4.2), 28.4 (12.8) pmol(ng)/g wet weight tissue); low levels (< 2 pmol/g) were found in brain, kidney and lung. Menaquinone-4 (MK-4) was recovered from most of the tissues; its levels exceeded the K1 levels in brain and kidney (median, 2.8 ng/g) and equalled K1 in pancreas. Liver, heart and lung were low in MK-4. The higher menaquinones, MK-6-11, were recovered in the liver samples (n 6), traces of MK-6-9 were found in some of the heart and pancreas samples. The results show that in man there are tissue-specific, vitamin-K distribution patterns comparable to those in the rat. Furthermore, the accumulation of vitamin K in heart, brain and pancreas suggests a hitherto unrecognized physiological function of this vitamin.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / chemistry
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Lung / chemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardium / chemistry
  • Organ Specificity
  • Pancreas / chemistry
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Vitamin K / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin K / analysis*
  • Vitamin K 1 / analysis*
  • Vitamin K 2 / analogs & derivatives


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