Vitamin K Benefits in Aging and Cancer

  • Kotaro Azuma
  • Satoshi InoueEmail author


Vitamin K is well known as a critical blood coagulation factor. In addition, epidemiological studies suggest that reduced vitamin K intake is associated with several geriatric diseases, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, dementia, and arteriosclerosis. Indeed, the therapeutic benefits of vitamin K have been demonstrated in osteoporosis patients in several clinical studies. It has also been proposed that vitamin K may contribute to the prevention and treatment of some types of malignancies. Vitamin K functions as a co-factor of γ-glutamyl carboxylase (GGCX) and regulates the activity of vitamin K-dependent proteins expressed in various tissues via posttranscriptional modifications. As an additional mechanism of vitamin K action, we revealed that vitamin K activates the Steroid and Xenobiotic receptor (SXR), a member of nuclear receptor superfamily, leading to changes in gene transcription. Analysis of the bones of pregnane X receptor (PXR)-deficient mice demonstrated that the bone protective effects of vitamin K are partially mediated by SXR/PXR-dependent signaling. In certain malignancies, vitamin K exerts therapeutic activity in an SXR/PXR-dependent manner. Another distinct function of vitamin K involves apoptotic induction of leukemia cells, which may be attributed to the covalent association of vitamin K2 epoxide with pro-apoptotic protein Bak. The progress of vitamin K research has opened up new possibilities that vitamin K can be useful for prevention and treatment of a variety of diseases.


Vitamin K Steroid and xenobiotic receptor (SXR) Pregnane X receptor (PXR) γ-glutamyl carboxylase (GGCX) Aging Osteoporosis Osteoarthritis Alzheimer’s disease Cancer 



This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid from the MHLW, Cell Innovation Program and Grants-in-Aid from the MEXT, the Program for Promotion of Fundamental Studies in Health Sciences from the NIBIO, a grant from the Novartis Foundation for Gerontological Research, and also, in part, by the Asian CORE program of JSPS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geriatric Medicine, Graduate School of MedicineThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Anti-Aging Medicine, Graduate School of MedicineThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Division of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, Research Center for Genomic MedicineSaitama Medical SchoolSaitamaJapan

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