The many faces of vitamin B12: catalysis by cobalamin-dependent enzymes

Annu Rev Biochem. 2003;72:209-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.72.121801.161828.


Vitamin B12 is a complex organometallic cofactor associated with three subfamilies of enzymes: the adenosylcobalamin-dependent isomerases, the methylcobalamin-dependent methyltransferases, and the dehalogenases. Different chemical aspects of the cofactor are exploited during catalysis by the isomerases and the methyltransferases. Thus, the cobalt-carbon bond ruptures homolytically in the isomerases, whereas it is cleaved heterolytically in the methyltransferases. The reaction mechanism of the dehalogenases, the most recently discovered class of B12 enzymes, is poorly understood. Over the past decade our understanding of the reaction mechanisms of B12 enzymes has been greatly enhanced by the availability of large amounts of enzyme that have afforded detailed structure-function studies, and these recent advances are the subject of this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Catalysis
  • Free Radicals / chemistry
  • Halogens / chemistry
  • Halogens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Isomerases / metabolism*
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thermodynamics
  • Vitamin B 12 / chemistry*
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism*


  • Free Radicals
  • Halogens
  • Methyltransferases
  • Hydrolases
  • Isomerases
  • Vitamin B 12