A generic descriptor for all tocopherols and tocotrienols that exhibit alpha-tocopherol activity. By virtue of the phenolic hydrogen on the 2H-1-benzopyran-6-ol nucleus, these compounds exhibit varying degree of antioxidant activity, depending on the site and number of methyl groups and the type of isoprenoids. [PubChem]
Vitamin E, known for its antioxidant activities, is protective against cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer and has also demonstrated immune-enhancing effects. It may be of limited benefit in some with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. It may be helpful in some neurological diseases including Alzheimer's, some eye disorders including cataracts, and diabetes and premenstrual syndrome. It may also help protect skin from ultraviolet irradiation although claims that it reverses skin aging, enhances male fertility and exercise performance are poorly supported. It may help relieve some muscle cramps.
Vitamin E has antioxidant activity. It may also have anti-atherogenic, antithrombotic, anticoagulant, neuroprotective, antiviral, immunomodulatory, cell membrane-stabilizing and antiproliferative actions. Vitamin E is a collective term used to describe eight separate forms, the best-known form being alpha-tocopherol. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and is an important antioxidant. It acts to protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of the body's metabolism. Vitamin E is often used in skin creams and lotions because it is believed to play a role in encouraging skin healing and reducing scarring after injuries such as burns. There are three specific situations when a vitamin E deficiency is likely to occur. It is seen in persons who cannot absorb dietary fat, has been found in premature, very low birth weight infants (birth weights less than 1500 grams, or 3½ pounds), and is seen in individuals with rare disorders of fat metabolism. A vitamin E deficiency is usually characterized by neurological problems due to poor nerve conduction. Symptoms may include infertility, neuromuscular impairment, menstrual problems, miscarriage and uterine degradation. Preliminary research has led to a widely held belief that vitamin E may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease. Antioxidants such as vitamin E help protect against the damaging effects of free radicals, which may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer. It also protects other fat-soluble vitamins (A and B group vitamins) from destruction by oxygen. Low levels of vitamin E have been linked to increased incidence of breast and colon cancer.
Mechanism of action
Although all forms of Vitamin E exhibit antioxidant activity, it is known that the antioxidant activity of vitamin E is not sufficient to explain the vitamin's biological activity. <br/>Vitamin E's anti-atherogenic activity involves the inhibition of the oxidation of LDL and the accumulation of oxLDL in the arterial wall. It also appears to reduce oxLDL-induced apoptosis in human endothelial cells. Oxidation of LDL is a key early step in atherogenesis as it triggers a number of events which lead to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. In addition, vitamin E inhibits protein kinase C (PKC) activity. PKC plays a role in smooth muscle cell proliferation, and, thus, the inhibition of PKC results in inhibition of smooth muscle cell proliferation, which is involved in atherogenesis. <br/>Vitamin E's antithrombotic and anticoagulant activities involves the downregulation of the expression of intracellular cell adhesion molecule(ICAM)-1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule(VCAM)-1 which lowers the adhesion of blood components to the endothelium. In addition, vitamin E upregulates the expression of cytosolic phospholipase A2 and cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 which in turn enhances the release of prostacyclin. Prostacyclin is a vasodilating factor and inhibitor of platelet aggregation and platelet release. It is also known that platelet aggregation is mediated by a mechanism involving the binding of fibrinogen to the glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (GPIIb/IIIa) complex of platelets. GPIIb/IIIa is the major membrane receptor protein that is key to the role of the platelet aggregation response. GPIIb is the alpha-subunit of this platelet membrane protein. Alpha-tocopherol downregulates GPIIb promoter activity which results in reduction of GPIIb protein expression and decreased platelet aggregation. Vitamin E has also been found in culture to decrease plasma production of thrombin, a protein which binds to platelets and induces aggregation. A metabolite of vitamin E called vitamin E quinone or alpha-tocopheryl quinone (TQ) is a potent anticoagulant. This metabolite inhibits vitamin K-dependent carboxylase, which is a major enzyme in the coagulation cascade.<br/>The neuroprotective effects of vitamin E are explained by its antioxidant effects. Many disorders of the nervous system are caused by oxidative stress. Vitamin E protects against this stress, thereby protecting the nervouse system. <br/>The immunomodulatory effects of Vitamin E have been demonstrated in vitro, where alpha-tocopherol increases mitogenic response of T lymphocytes from aged mice. The mechanism of this response by vitamin E is not well understood, however it has been suggested that vitamin E itself may have mitogenic activity independent of its antioxidant activity. <br/>Lastly, the mechanism of action of vitamin E's antiviral effects (primarily against HIV-1) involves its antioxidant activity. Vitamin E reduces oxidative stress, which is thought to contribute to HIV-1 pathogenesis, as well as to the pathogenesis of other viral infections. Vitamin E also affects membrane integrity and fluidity and, since HIV-1 is a membraned virus, altering membrane fluidity of HIV-1 may interfere with its ability to bind to cell-receptor sites, thus decreasing its infectivity.
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