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Scientific breakthrough reveals how vitamin B12 is made

2013-08-08
(Press-News.org) Vitamin B12 is pieced together as an elaborate molecular jigsaw involving around 30 individual components. It is unique amongst the vitamins in that it is only made by certain bacteria. In the early 1990's it was realised that there were two pathways to allow its construction – one that requires oxygen and one that occurs in the absence of oxygen. It is this so-called anaerobic pathway, which is the more common pathway, that proved so elusive as the components of the pathway are very unstable and rapidly degrade.

However, as explained in a paper published by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), bioscientists at the University of Kent have trained a friendly bacterium called Bacillus megaterium to produce all of the components of the anaerobic B12 pathway. This has helped them acquire the missing molecular pieces of the jigsaw, allowing them to complete the picture of how this remarkable molecule is made.

The team hopes that this newly acquired information can be used to help persuade bacteria to make the vitamin in larger quantities, thereby contributing to its use in medication for people suffering with the blood disorder pernicious anaemia, amongst other things.

Professor Martin Warren, who led the research, said: 'This is a really exciting time in the biological sciences – one where our knowledge can be applied with the emerging discipline of synthetic biology to produce strains of bacteria that make enough B12, and other vitamins, for use in medicine and other sectors, such as feed for livestock.'

Key academic partners in the research included Dr Rebekka Biedendieck (Braunschweig University of Technology) and Dr Steve Rigby (Manchester Institute of Biotechnology). The Kent team also included Dr Simon Moore and Dr Mark Howard, Reader in Biological NMR Spectroscopy.

### The research was funded by a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to Professor Warren and Dr Howard.

'Elucidation of the anaerobic pathway for the corrin component of cobalamin (vitamin B12)' can be viewed online at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/08/06/1308098110

For further information or interview requests contact Gary Hughes in the University of Kent Press Office
Tel: 01227 823100/823581
email: g.m.hughes@kent.ac.uk News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors:

The University of Kent – the UK's European University – was established at Canterbury in 1965. It has almost 20,000 students and operates campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome. It has long-standing partnerships with more than 100 major European universities and many others across the world, including institutions in Argentina, China, Japan, USA, Canada, Malaysia and Peru.

Kent is one of the few universities to be consistently rated by its own students as one of the best in the UK for the quality of its teaching and academic provision. This includes its 3rd place for overall student satisfaction in the 2012 National Student Survey. It was also ranked 20th in the 2014 Guardian University Guide, 28th in the Sunday Times University League Table 2013, and 28th in the Complete University Guide 2014.

In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, Kent placed 24th out of 159 participating institutions in the UK for its world-leading research, while 97% of its academic staff work in schools or centres where the research is rated as either internationally or nationally excellent.

It is worth £0.6 billion to the economy of the South East, with its students contributing £211 million to that total. The University also supports directly or indirectly almost 6,800 jobs in the South East (source: Viewforth Consulting, 2009-10).

In 2012, Kent launched a campaign to celebrate its 50th anniversary.


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[Press-News.org] Scientific breakthrough reveals how vitamin B12 is made