The Co beta-cyanocobamides obtained by cyanide extractions from several acetogenic bacteria were structurally characterized by ultraviolet/visible spectra, proton-nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectra and fast-atom-bombardment mass spectra. p-Cresolycobamide was detected as a major corrinoid from Sporomusa ovata. This 'complete' corrinoid was isolated from an organism for the first time. Instead of the common Co alpha bases of the known and biologically active cobamides, p-cresolylcobamide contained a glycosidically bound cresolyl function that was unable to coordinate to the cobalt of the corrin ring. An additional, previously unknown corrinoid from natural sources, Co alpha-[alpha-(5-methoxy-6-methylbenzimidazolyl)]-Co beta-cyanocobamide, was isolated along with vitamin B12 from Clostridium formicoaceticum. Both homoacetogenic eubacteria were grown on methanol and contained high amounts of corrinoids (greater than 950 nmol/g cell dry mass). Less corrinoid was isolated from Acetobacterium woodii and characterized as vitamin B12.