The identity of the source of the biological reductant needed to convert cobalamin to its biologically active form adenosylcobalamin has remained elusive. Here we show that free or protein-bound dihydroflavins can serve as the reductant of Co(2+)Cbl bound in the active site of PduO-type ATP-dependent corrinoid adenosyltransferase enzymes. Free dihydroflavins (dihydroriboflavin, FMNH(2), and FADH(2)) effectively drove the adenosylation of Co(2+)Cbl by the human and bacterial PduO-type enzymes at very low concentrations (1 microm). These data show that adenosyltransferase enzymes lower the thermodynamic barrier of the Co(2+) --> Co(+) reduction needed for the formation of the unique organometalic Co-C bond of adenosylcobalamin. Collectively, our in vivo and in vitro data suggest that cobalamin reductases identified thus far are most likely electron transfer proteins, not enzymes.