The anaerobic biosynthesis of vitamin B12

Biochem Soc Trans. 2012 Jun 1;40(3):581-6. doi: 10.1042/BST20120066.


Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a cobalt-containing modified tetrapyrrole that is an essential nutrient for higher animals. Its biosynthesis is restricted to certain bacteria and requires approximately 30 enzymatic steps for its complete de novo construction. Remarkably, two distinct biosynthetic pathways exist, which are termed the aerobic and anaerobic routes. The anaerobic pathway has yet to be fully characterized due to the inherent instability of its oxygen-sensitive intermediates. Bacillus megaterium, a bacterium previously used for the commercial production of cobalamin, has a complete anaerobic pathway and this organism is now being used to investigate the anaerobic B12 pathway through the application of recent advances in recombinant protein production. The present paper provides a summary of recent findings in the anaerobic pathway and future perspectives.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Bacillus megaterium / metabolism*
  • Biosynthetic Pathways*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Vitamin B 12 / biosynthesis*
  • Vitamin B 12 / chemistry


  • Vitamin B 12