• central nervous system;
  • cobalamin;
  • cytokines;
  • growth factors;
  • immune system;
  • nuclear factor-κB;
  • vitamin deficiency-induced diseases;
  • vitamins


There is a growing awareness that natural vitamins (with the only exception of pantothenic acid) positively or negatively modulate the synthesis of some cytokines and growth factors in the CNS, and various mammalian cells and organs. As natural vitamins are micronutrients in the human diet, studying their effects can be considered a part of nutritional genomics or nutrigenomics. A given vitamin selectively modifies the synthesis of only a few cytokines and/or growth factors, although the same cytokine and/or growth factor may be regulated by more than one vitamin. These effects seem to be independent of the effects of vitamins as coenzymes and/or reducing agents, and seem to occur mainly at genomic and/or epigenetic level, and/or by modulating NF-κB activity. Although most of the studies reviewed here have been based on cultured cell lines, but their findings have been confirmed by some key in vivo studies. The CNS seems to be particularly involved and is severely affected by most avitaminoses, especially in the case of vitamin B12. However, the vitamin-induced changes in cytokine and growth factor synthesis may initiate a cascade of events that can affect the function, differentiation, and morphology of the cells and/or structures not only in the CNS, but also elsewhere because most natural vitamins, cytokines, and growth factors cross the blood–brain barrier. As cytokines are essential to CNS-immune and CNS-hormone system communications, natural vitamins also interact with these circuits. Further studies of such vitamin-mediated effects could lead to vitamins being used for the treatment of diseases which, although not true avitaminoses, involve an imbalance in cytokine and/or growth factor synthesis.