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Acta Biochim Pol. 2012;59(2):195-200. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Biochemical and medical importance of vanadium compounds.

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Department of Biochemistry and Medical Chemistry, Pomeranian Medical University, Szczecin, Poland.


Vanadium belongs to the group of transition metals and is present in the air and soil contaminants in large urban agglomerations due to combustion of fossil fuels. It forms numerous inorganic compounds (vanadyl sulfate, sodium metavanadate, sodium orthovanadate, vanadium pentoxide) as well as complexes with organic compounds (BMOV, BEOV, METVAN). Depending on the research model, vanadium compounds exhibit antitumor or carcinogenic properties. Vanadium compounds generate ROS as a result of Fenton's reaction or of the reaction with atmospheric oxygen. They inactivate the Cdc25B(2) phosphatase and lead to degradation of Cdc25C, which induces G(2)/M phase arrest. In cells, vanadium compounds activate numerous signaling pathways and transcription factors, including PI3K-PKB/Akt-mTOR, NF-κB, MEK1/2-ERK, that cause cell survival or increased expression and release of VEGF. Vanadium compounds inhibit p53-dependent apoptosis and promote entry into the S phase of cells containing functional p53 protein. In addition, vanadium compounds, in particular organic derivatives, have insulin-mimetic and antidiabetic properties. Vanadium compounds lower blood glucose levels in animals and in clinical trials. They also inhibit the activity of protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B. By activating the PI3K-PKB/Akt pathway, vanadium compaunds increase the cellular uptake of glucose by the GLUT4 transporter. The PKB/Akt pathway is also used to inactivate glycogen synthase kinase-3. The impact of vanadium compounds on inflammatory reactions has not been fully studied. Vanadium pentoxide causes expression of COX-2 and the release of proinflammatory cytokines in a human lung fibroblast model. Other vanadium compounds activate NF-κB in macrophages by activating IKKβ.

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