The biological image of the transition element vanadium ferments a great deal of contradiction - from toxicity to essentiality. Importance of this element as micro-nutrient is yet to be unequivocally accepted by biologists and biomedical scientists. In spite of toxicity, it seems interesting to analyze the different biological roles of the element. Vanadium compounds have been proven to be associated with various implications in the pathogenesis of some human diseases and also in maintaining normal body functions. Salts of vanadium interfere with an essential array of enzymatic systems such as different ATPases, protein kinases, ribonucleases and phosphatases. While vanadium deficiency accounts for several physiological malfunctionings including thyroid, glucose and lipid metabolism, etc., several genes are regulated by this element or by its compounds, which include genes for tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), Interleukin-8 (IL-8), activator protein-1 (AP-1), ras, c-raf-1, mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK), p53, nuclear factors - κB, etc. All these seem to be not far from its recognition as an element of pharmacological and nutritional significance, which is revealed through its increasing therapeutic uses in diabetes. Vanadium is also emerging as a potent anti-carcinogenic agent. This review summarizes the developments related to vanadium biology as a whole by analyzing the general biochemical functions of vanadium.
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