Structural and dynamic membrane properties of alpha-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol: Implication to the molecular mechanism of their antioxidant potency

Suzuki YJ, Tsuchiya M, Wassall SR, Choo YM, Govil G, Kagan VE, Packer L.

Biochemistry. 1993 Oct 12;32(40):10692-9.

d-alpha-Tocopherol and d-alpha-tocotrienol are two vitamin E constituents having the same aromatic chromanol “head” but different hydrocarbon “tails”. alpha-Tocotrienol has been shown to be more potent in protecting against free radical-induced oxidative stress than alpha-tocopherol. Simple models of phospholipid membrane systems were used to investigate the mechanism of the antioxidant potency of alpha-tocotrienol in terms of its effects on membrane order and reorientation dynamics. Chemiluminescence and fluorescence measurements demonstrated that alpha-tocotrienol exhibits significantly greater peroxyl radical scavenging potency than alpha-tocopherol in phosphatidylcholine liposomes, whereas both antioxidants have identical activity in hexane. This suggests that the antioxidant potency of alpha-tocotrienol requires the membrane environment. When alpha-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol were examined for their effects on phospholipid molecular order using conventional ESR spin labeling with 5- and 16-position-labeled doxylstearic acid, although both vitamin E constituents disordered the gel phase and stabilized the liquid-crystalline phase, no differences were observed between the effects of the two compounds. A slightly greater increase (19% vs 15%) in ordering of the liquid-crystalline state due to alpha-tocopherol, however, was discerned in noninvasive 2H NMR experiments. The difference is most noticeable near C10-C13 positions of the phospholipid chain, possibly suggesting alpha-tocotrienol is located closer to the membrane surface. Saturation-transfer ESR, furthermore, revealed that on the time scale tau c = 10(-7)-10(-3) s the rates of rotation about the long molecular axis and of the wobbling motion of the axis are modified to differing extents by the two forms of the vitamin E