Cobalamin coenzyme forms are not likely to be superior to cyano- and hydroxyl-cobalamin in prevention or treatment of cobalamin deficiency

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Jul;59(7):1364-72. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201500019. Epub 2015 May 12.


Methylcobalamin (MeCbl) and adenosylcobalamin (AdoCbl) are coenzymes for methionine synthase and methylmalonyl-CoA mutase, respectively. Hydroxylcobalamin (HOCbl) and cyanocobalamin (CNCbl) are frequently used for supplementation. MeCbl and AdoCbl have recently emerged as alternative forms in supplements. In the light of metabolic transformation of Cbl into its cofactor forms, this review discusses current evidence on efficacy and utility of different Cbl forms in preventing or treating Cbl deficiency. Cbl-transporting proteins bind and mediate the uptake of all aforementioned forms of Cbl. After internalization and lysosomal release, Cbl binds to the cytosolic chaperon MMACHC that is responsible for (i) flavin-dependent decyanation of [CN-Co(3+) Cbl to [Co(2+)]Cbl; (ii) glutathione-dependent dealkylation of MeCbl and AdoCbl to [Co(2+/1+)]Cbl; and (iii) glutathione-dependent decyanation of CNCbl or reduction of HOCbl under anaerobic conditions. MMACHC shows a broad specificity for Cbl forms and supplies the Cbl(2+) intermediate for synthesis of MeCbl and AdoCbl. Cobalamin chemistry, physiology, and biochemistry suggest that MeCbl and AdoCbl follow the same route of intracellular processing as CNCbl does. We conclude that supplementing MeCbl or AdoCbl is unlikely to be advantageous compared to CNCbl. On the other hand, there are obvious advantages of high parenteral doses (1-2 mg) of HOCbl in treating inborn errors of Cbl metabolism.

Keywords: Adenosylcobalamin; Coenzyme; Cyanocobalamin; Deficiency; Hydroxylcobalamin; Methylcobalamin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Cobamides / metabolism
  • Cobamides / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxocobalamin / pharmacology
  • Vitamin B 12 / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin B 12 / chemistry
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism*
  • Vitamin B 12 / pharmacology
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / drug therapy*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Cobamides
  • mecobalamin
  • cobamamide
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Hydroxocobalamin