Vitamin K was discovered in 1929 as a substance essential for blood coagulation and had been clinically utilized before the precise mechanism of action became aware in 1970s. The function as a cofactor of γ-glutamyl carboxylase (GGCX) was the mechanism firstly discovered with the identification of several substrate proteins including blood coagulation factors and osteocalcin. Recently, we and others have shown that vitamin K has other modes of function, such as ligand of nuclear receptor SXR (steroid and xenobiotic receptor) and its murine ortholog PXR (pregnane X receptor) and modulator of protein kinase A (PKA) activity. Besides its importance in blood coagulation, involvement of vitamin K has been shown in two major aging-related diseases, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Based on clinical and epidemiological studies, vitamin K is shown to have protective roles for both of them. Interestingly, clinical studies concerning single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of GGCX and γ-carboxylated status of osteocalcin suggested relationship between GGCX activity and bone-protective effect, while recent findings from basic research indicated that vitamin K functions mediated by SXR/PXR as well as GGCX are important in the bone metabolism. We also suggested that cartilage-protective effect is mediated by SXR/PXR signaling by animal experiments using Pxr knockout mice.
Part of the book: Vitamin K2