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Mol Aspects Med. 2003 Dec;24(6):325-36.

The role of alpha-tocopherol in preventing disease: from epidemiology to molecular events.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Bern, B├╝hlstrasse 28, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland. angelo.azzi@mci.unibe.ch


The function of vitamin E has been attributed to its capacity to protect the organism against the attack of free radicals by acting as a lipid based radical chain breaking molecule. More recently, alternative non-antioxidant functions of vitamin E have been proposed and in particular that of a "gene regulator". Effects of vitamin E have been observed at the level of mRNA or protein and could be consequent to regulation of gene transcription, mRNA stability, protein translation, protein stability and post-translational events. Given the high priority functions assigned to vitamin E, it can be speculated that it would be inefficient to consume it as a radical scavenger. Rather, it would be important to protect vitamin E through a network of cellular antioxidant defences, similarly to what occurs with proteins, nucleic acids and lipids.

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