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Vitam Horm. 2008;78:35-62. doi: 10.1016/S0083-6729(07)00003-9.

The vitamin K cycle.

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Institute of Experimental Haematology and Transfusion Medicine, University Clinic Bonn, D-53105 Bonn, Germany.


Vitamin K is a collective term for lipid-like naphthoquinone derivatives synthesized only in eubacteria and plants and functioning as electron carriers in energy transduction pathways and as free radical scavengers maintaining intracellular redox homeostasis. Paradoxically, vitamin K is a required micronutrient in animals for protein posttranslational modification of some glutamate side chains to gamma-carboxyglutamate. The majority of gamma-carboxylated proteins function in blood coagulation. Vitamin K shuttles reducing equivalents as electrons between two enzymes: VKORC1, which is itself reduced by an unknown ER lumenal reductant in order to reduce vitamin K epoxide (K>O) to the quinone form (KH2); and gamma-glutamyl carboxylase, which catalyzes posttranslational gamma-carboxylation and oxidizes KH2 to K>O. This article reviews vitamin K synthesis and the vitamin K cycle, outlines physiological roles of various vitamin K-dependent, gamma-carboxylated proteins, and summarizes the current understanding of clinical phenotypes caused by genetic mutations affecting both enzymes of the vitamin K cycle.

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