The microbial mechanisms and key metabolites that shape the composition of the human gut microbiota are largely unknown, impeding efforts to manipulate dysbiotic microbial communities toward stability and health. Vitamins, which by definition are not synthesized in sufficient quantities by the host and can mediate fundamental biological processes in microbes, represent an attractive target for reshaping microbial communities. Here, we discuss how vitamin B12 (cobalamin) impacts diverse host-microbe symbioses. Although cobalamin is synthesized by some human gut microbes, it is a precious resource in the gut and is likely not provisioned to the host in significant quantities. However, this vitamin may make an unrecognized contribution in shaping the structure and function of human gut microbial communities.
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