Scientists have revealed that vitamin B12 morphs into a gymnast as soon as it gets into the body. This is because they have mapped its twisting and turning as part of a crucial reaction called methyl-transfer.
University of Michigan Health System and MIT scientists captured these contorting images in 3-D for the first time, by aiming intense beams of X-rays at crystallized forms of the protein complex and painstakingly determining the position of every atom inside.
Methyl-transfer is a reaction vital both in human cells and in a slightly different way, in the cells of bugs that consume carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, the journal Nature reports, citing a statement from the varsity and MIT.
"Similarly, the bacteria that rely on this reaction would be unable to consume carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide to stay alive - and to remove gas from our guts or our atmosphere. So it's important on many levels," he added.
Researchers used B12 complexes from another type of CO2-munching bugs found in the murky pond bottoms for experiments.
These 3-D images show the intricate molecular juggling needed for B12 to serve its biologically essential function. Ragsdale notes that this methyl-transfer reaction is crucial to human health.
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamine and one of the eight B vitamins, is water-soluble, playing a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and for blood formation.