The epigenetic role of vitamin C in health and disease

Vladimir Camarena, Gaofeng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Recent advances have uncovered a previously unknown function of vitamin C in epigenetic regulation. Vitamin C exists predominantly as an ascorbate anion under physiological pH conditions. Ascorbate was discovered as a cofactor for methylcytosine dioxygenases that are responsible for DNA demethylation, and also as a likely cofactor for some JmjC domain-containing histone demethylases that catalyze histone demethylation. Variation in ascorbate bioavailability thus can influence the demethylation of both DNA and histone, further leading to different phenotypic presentations. Ascorbate deficiency can be presented systematically, spatially and temporally in different tissues at the different stages of development and aging. Here, we review how ascorbate deficiency could potentially be involved in embryonic and postnatal development, and plays a role in various diseases such as neurodegeneration and cancer through epigenetic dysregulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1645-1658
Number of pages14
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2016


  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Histone methylation
  • JmjC domain-containing histone demethylases
  • Methylcytosine dioxygenase
  • Scurvy
  • Vitamin C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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