Two new cobalt corrinoid intermediates, cobalt-precorrin 5A and cobalt-precorrin 5B, have been synthesized with the aid of overexpressed enzymes of the vitamin B(12) pathway of Salmonella entericaserovar typhimurium. These compounds were made in several regioselectively (13)C-labeled forms, and their structures have been established by multidimensional NMR spectroscopy. The addition of CbiF to the enzymes known to synthesize cobalt-precorrin 4 resulted in the formation of cobalt-precorrin 5A, and the inclusion of CbiG with CbiF produced cobalt-precorrin 5B, which has allowed us to define the role of these enzymes in the anaerobic biosynthetic pathway. CbiF is the C-11 methylase, and CbiG, an enzyme which shows homology with CobE of the aerobic pathway, is the gene product responsible for the opening of the ring A delta-lactone and extrusion of the "C(2)" unit. The discovery of these long-sought intermediates paves the way for defining the final stages of the anaerobic pathway. It is of considerable evolutionary interest that nature uses two distinct pathways to vitamin B(12), both conserved over several billion years and featuring completely different mechanisms for ring-contraction of the porphyrinoid to the corrinoid ring system. Thus the aerobic pathway utilizes molecular oxygen to trigger the events at C-20 leading to contraction and expulsion of the "C(2)" unit as acetic acid from a metal-free intermediate, whereas the anaerobic route features internal delivery of oxygen from a carboxylic acid terminus to C-20 followed by extrusion of the "C(2)" unit as acetaldehyde, using cobalt complexes as substrates.