Analytical strategies to assess the functional metabolome of vitamin E

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After more than 90 years from its discovery and thousands of papers published, the physiological roles of vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols) are still not fully clarified. In the last few decades, the enzymatic metabolism of this vitamin has represented a stimulating subject of research. Its elucidation has opened up new horizons to the interpretation of the biological function of that class of molecules. The identification of specific properties for some of the physiological metabolites and the definition of advanced analytical techniques to assess the human metabolome of this vitamin in vivo, have paved the way to a series of hypotheses on the functional implications that this metabolism may have far beyond its catabolic role. The present review collects the available information on the most relevant analytical strategies employed to assess the status and metabolism of vitamin E in humans as well as in other model systems. A particular focus is dedicated to the analytical methods used to measure vitamin E metabolites, and particularly long-chain metabolites, in biological fluids and tissues. Preliminary information on a new LC-APCI-MS/MS method to measure these metabolites in human serum is reported.

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