PerspectiveCell Biology

Vitamin Currency in a Lipid Exchange Market

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Science  31 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6136, pp. 1051-1052
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239800

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The most abundant form of vitamin E in mammals, α-tocopherol, is a vital lipid-soluble antioxidant that prevents damage to cellular lipids containing polyunsaturated fatty acids. A deficiency of this antioxidant leads to severe degenerative diseases such as ataxia, infertility, muscle degeneration, and perhaps atherosclerosis. Although vitamin E is present in appreciable amounts in food, regulation of its availability in the body is complex and involves several steps both outside and inside the cell (1). On page 1106 of this issue, Kono et al. (2) reveal how the vitamin becomes localized at the plasma membrane, poised for release into the circulation, through a lipid transport protein that exchanges it for a very different lipid, a phosphoinositide.