Effect of high levels of dietary folic acid on folate metabolism in vitamin B12 deficiency

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1988 Sep;265(2):407-14. doi: 10.1016/0003-9861(88)90143-9.


The effect of administering high levels of folic acid to vitamin B12-deficient animals was studied. In B12 deficiency histidine oxidation is decreased. This is the result of both decreased liver folate levels and increases in the proportion of methyltetrahydrofolates. The purpose of this study was to determine if the addition of very high levels of folic acid to B12-deficient diets could increase liver folates and thereby restore histidine oxidation. Rats were fed a soy protein B12-deficient diet containing 10% pectin which has been shown previously to accelerate B12 depletion. When this diet was supplemented with B12 and folic acid, histidine oxidation was 5.4% in 2 h and the livers contained 3.49 micrograms of folate/g. In the absence of B12, the histidine oxidation rate was 0.34% and the liver folate level was 1.33 micrograms/g. When 200 mg/kg of folic acid was added to the B12-deficient diet there was no increase in histidine oxidation (0.35%) but the liver folates were increased to 3.68 micrograms which is about the same as that with B12 supplementation. The percentage tetrahydrofolate of the total liver folates was the same with and without a high level of dietary folic acid. Thus there was an increase in the absolute level of tetrahydrofolate without any increase in folate function as measured by histidine oxidation. Red cell folate levels were the same with and without B12, which is in contrast to the markedly lower liver folate levels in B12 deficiency. These data suggest a difference between B12 regulation of folate metabolism in the liver and in the bone marrow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Diet*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Folic Acid / metabolism
  • Histidine / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malonates / metabolism
  • Pectins / administration & dosage
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tetrahydrofolates / metabolism
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / metabolism*


  • Malonates
  • Tetrahydrofolates
  • Histidine
  • Pectins
  • Folic Acid
  • methyl malonate