Tocochromanols (tocopherols and tocotrienols) are important lipophilic antioxidants for animals and humans. Their biological activity is expressed as vitamin E activity. This article describes the current need for vitamin E production, and compares different strategies to engineer the vitamin E content in photosynthetic bacteria and plants, with a focus on oilseed as target tissues. The current status of biotechnological advances in tocochromanol pathway engineering is summarized, and current limitations in our understanding of the tocochromanol biosynthetic pathway are discussed.

Free radicals generated by ferric nitrilotriacetate (FeNTA) can activate osteoclastic activity and this is associated with elevation of the bone resorbing cytokines interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-6. In the present study, we investigated the effects of 2 mg/kg FeNTA (2 mg iron/kg) on the levels of serum IL-1 and IL-6 with or without supplementation with a palm oil tocotrienol mixture or alpha-tocopherol acetate in Wistar rats. 2. The FeNTA was found to elevate levels of IL-1 and IL-6. Only the palm oil tocotrienol mixture at doses of 60 and 100 mg/kg was able to prevent FeNTA-induced increases in IL-1 (P < 0.01). Both the palm oil tocotrienol mixture and alpha-tocopherol acetate, at doses of 30, 60 and 100 mg/kg, were able to reduce FeNTA-induced increases in IL-6 (P < 0.05). Therefore, the palm oil tocotrienol mixture was better than pure alpha-tocopherol acetate in protecting bone against FeNTA (free radical)-induced elevation of bone-resorbing cytokines. 3. Supplementation with the palm oil tocotrienol mixture or alpha-tocopherol acetate at 100 mg/kg restored the reduction in serum osteocalcin levels due to ageing, as seen in the saline (control) group (P < 0.05). All doses of the palm oil tocotrienol mixture decreased urine deoxypyridinoline cross-link (DPD) significantly compared with the control group, whereas a trend for decreased urine DPD was only seen for doses of 60 mg/kg onwards of alpha-tocopherol acetate (P < 0.05). 4. Bone histomorphometric analyses have shown that FeNTA injections significantly lowered mean osteoblast number (P < 0.001) and the bone formation rate (P < 0.001), but raised osteoclast number (P < 0.05) and the ratio of eroded surface/bone surface (P < 0.001) compared with the saline (control) group. Supplementation with 100 mg/kg palm oil tocotrienol mixture was able to prevent all these FeNTA-induced changes, but a similar dose of alpha-tocopherol acetate was found to be effective only for mean osteoclast number. Injections of FeNTA were also shown to reduce trabecular bone volume (P < 0.001) and trabecular thickness (P < 0.05), whereas only supplementation with 100 mg/kg palm oil tocotrienol mixture was able to prevent these FeNTA-induced changes

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