Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that serves as an essential coenzyme for five carboxylases in mammals. Biotin-dependent carboxylases catalyze the fixation of bicarbonate in organic acids and play crucial roles in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose. Carboxylase activities decrease substantially in response to biotin deficiency. Biotin is also covalently attached to histones; biotinylated histones are enriched in repeat regions in the human genome and appear to play a role in transcriptional repression of genes and genome stability. Biotin deficiency may be caused by insufficient dietary uptake of biotin, drug-vitamin interactions and, perhaps, by increased biotin catabolism during pregnancy and in smokers. Biotin deficiency can also be precipitated by decreased activities of the following proteins that play critical roles in biotin homeostasis: the vitamin transporters sodium-dependent multivitamin transporter and monocarboxylate transporter 1, which mediate biotin transport in the intestine, liver and peripheral tissues, and renal reabsorption; holocarboxylase synthetase, which mediates the binding of biotin to carboxylases and histones; and biotinidase, which plays a central role in the intestinal absorption of biotin, the transport of biotin in plasma and the regulation of histone biotinylation. Symptoms of biotin deficiency include seizures, hypotonia, ataxia, dermatitis, hair loss, mental retardation, ketolactic acidosis, organic aciduria and also fetal malformations. This review focuses on the deficiencies of both biotin and biotinidase, and the medical management of such cases.