, Volume 218, Issue 3, pp 323-326
Date: 30 Oct 2003

New insights into the function of tocopherols in plants

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Vitamin E represents a group of lipophilic antioxidants, which are important in human health. Biotechnological approaches to manipulate vitamin E content in plants, with the aim of improving human nutrition, has been a major focus of research in recent years (Grusak and DellaPenna 1999; Cahoon et al. 2003; Collakova and DellaPenna 2003; Qi et al. 2003). In biochemical terms, vitamin E includes closely related tocopherol and tocotrienol derivatives. Both groups of compounds consist of a chromanol head group with one, two or three methyl groups (δ-, β- or γ-, α-form) and an isoprenoid (prenyl) side chain. Tocopherols have a saturated phytyl tail while tocotrienols have a 3-fold unsaturated side chain. Though tocopherols and tocotrienols are exclusively synthesized in photosynthetic organisms, their role in plants has been far less understood than in humans. Usually, α-tocopherol is the major vitamin E form present in green plant tissue, while γ-tocopherol and tocotrienols accumulate to h ...