Vitamin K is an essential nutrient involved in the regulation of blood clotting and tissue mineralization. Vitamin K oxidoreductase (VKORC1) converts vitamin K epoxide into reduced vitamin K, which acts as the co-factor for the γ-carboxylation of several proteins, including coagulation factors produced by the liver. VKORC1 is also the pharmacological target of warfarin, a widely used anticoagulant. Vertebrates possess a VKORC1 paralog, VKORC1-like 1 (VKORC1L1), but until very recently, the importance of VKORC1L1 for protein γ-carboxylation and hemostasis in vivo was not clear. Here, we first review the current knowledge on the structure, function and expression pattern of VKORC1L1, including recent data establishing that, in the absence of VKORC1, VKORC1L1 can support vitamin K-dependent carboxylation in the liver during the pre- and perinatal periods in vivo. We then provide original data showing that the partial redundancy between VKORC1 and VKORC1L1 also exists in bone around birth. Recent studies indicate that, in vitro and in cell culture models, VKORC1L1 is less sensitive to warfarin than VKORC1. Genetic evidence is presented here, which supports the notion that VKORC1L1 is not the warfarin-resistant vitamin K quinone reductase present in the liver. In summary, although the exact physiological function of VKORC1L1 remains elusive, the latest findings clearly established that this enzyme is a vitamin K oxidoreductase, which can support γ-carboxylation in vivo.
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