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FASEB J. 1999 Jun;13(9):977-94.

Tocopherol-mediated peroxidation of lipoproteins: implications for vitamin E as a potential antiatherogenic supplement.

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Biochemistry Group, The Heart Research Institute, Sydney, Australia.


The 'oxidation theory' of atherosclerosis proposes that oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) contributes to atherogenesis. Although little direct evidence for a causative role of 'oxidized LDL' in atherogenesis exists, several studies show that, in vitro, oxidized LDL exhibits potentially proatherogenic activities and lipoproteins isolated from atherosclerotic lesions are oxidized. As a consequence, the molecular mechanisms of LDL oxidation and the actions of alpha-tocopherol (alpha-TOH, vitamin E), the major lipid-soluble lipoprotein antioxidant, have been studied in detail. Based on the known antioxidant action of alpha-TOH and epidemiological evidence, vitamin E is generally considered to be beneficial in coronary artery disease. However, intervention studies overall show a null effect of vitamin E on atherosclerosis. This confounding outcome can be rationalized by the recently discovered diverse role for alpha-TOH in lipoprotein oxidation; that is, alpha-TOH displays neutral, anti-, or, indeed, pro-oxidant activity under various conditions. This review describes the latter, novel action of alpha-TOH, termed tocopherol-mediated peroxidation, and discusses the benefits of vitamin E supplementation alone or together with other antioxidants that work in concert with alpha-TOH in ameliorating lipoprotein lipid peroxidation in the artery wall and, hence, atherosclerosis.

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