Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 73, Issue 8, pp 1645–1658 | Cite as

The epigenetic role of vitamin C in health and disease

  • Vladimir Camarena
  • Gaofeng Wang


Recent advances have uncovered a previously unknown function of vitamin C in epigenetic regulation. Vitamin C exists predominantly as an ascorbate anion under physiological pH conditions. Ascorbate was discovered as a cofactor for methylcytosine dioxygenases that are responsible for DNA demethylation, and also as a likely cofactor for some JmjC domain-containing histone demethylases that catalyze histone demethylation. Variation in ascorbate bioavailability thus can influence the demethylation of both DNA and histone, further leading to different phenotypic presentations. Ascorbate deficiency can be presented systematically, spatially and temporally in different tissues at the different stages of development and aging. Here, we review how ascorbate deficiency could potentially be involved in embryonic and postnatal development, and plays a role in various diseases such as neurodegeneration and cancer through epigenetic dysregulation.


Epigenetics Vitamin C Methylcytosine dioxygenase DNA methylation JmjC domain-containing histone demethylases Histone methylation Scurvy 



We thank Lena Dennison and Sushmita Mustafi for their assistance. We apologize to our colleagues whose works were not able to cite in this review due to the space limitation. The work on the epigenetic regulation of vitamin C in the Wang lab is supported by Grants from the National Institutes of Health (R01NS089525, R21CA191668) and a James and Esther King Biomedical Research Award (3KN08).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human GeneticsUniversity of Miami Miller School of MedicineMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Bascom Palmer Eye InstituteUniversity of Miami Miller School of MedicineMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer CenterUniversity of Miami Miller School of MedicineMiamiUSA

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