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Review
. 2012 May 1;9(6):345-54.
doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2012.76.

Vitamin B12 Transport From Food to the Body's Cells--A Sophisticated, Multistep Pathway

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Review

Vitamin B12 Transport From Food to the Body's Cells--A Sophisticated, Multistep Pathway

Marianne J Nielsen et al. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. .

Abstract

Vitamin B(12) (B(12); also known as cobalamin) is a cofactor in many metabolic processes; deficiency of this vitamin is associated with megaloblastic anaemia and various neurological disorders. In contrast to many prokaryotes, humans and other mammals are unable to synthesize B(12). Instead, a sophisticated pathway for specific uptake and transport of this molecule has evolved. Failure in the gastrointestinal part of this pathway is the most common cause of nondietary-induced B(12) deficiency disease. However, although less frequent, defects in cellular processing and further downstream steps in the transport pathway are also known culprits of functional B(12) deficiency. Biochemical and genetic approaches have identified novel proteins in the B(12) transport pathway--now known to involve more than 15 gene products--delineating a coherent pathway for B(12) trafficking from food to the body's cells. Some of these gene products are specifically dedicated to B(12) transport, whereas others embrace additional roles, which explains the heterogeneity in the clinical picture of the many genetic disorders causing B(12) deficiency. This Review describes basic and clinical features of this multistep pathway with emphasis on gastrointestinal transport of B(12) and its importance in clinical medicine.

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