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Cobalt: B12 Enzymes & Coenzymes

  1. Bernhard Kräutler

Published Online: 15 MAR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470862106.ia045

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

How to Cite

Kräutler, B. 2006. Cobalt: B12 Enzymes & Coenzymes. Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2006


The most prominent biological role associated with cobalt concerns vitamin B12, its natural variants, and its coenzyme forms. The B12-derivatives are cobalt complexes of the unique and remarkably complex corrin ligand that belong to the larger class of the tetrapyrrolic natural compounds. The ‘antipernicious anemia factor’ vitamin B12 and its cofactor forms are, first of all, required for human and animal health. However, except for the higher plants, all forms of life appear to depend upon the natural variants of vitamin B12. The main chemical reactivities of the corrinoids (needed to fulfill their essential biological roles) may reflect their possible corresponding chemical contributions to the development of the early stages of life on earth. Indeed, the corrinoids play a particularly basic role in carbon metabolism in microorganisms, which also are the only natural sources of the B12-derivatives. Microorganisms have developed extraordinary means for the biosynthesis, and for the regulation of the biosynthesis of the B12-derivatives, in order to cope with the structural and functional complexity of these tetrapyrrolic cobalt-compounds, while most (other) forms of life have evolved intricate strategies for the economic and efficient uptake and transport of the corrinoids. The known cofactor functions of the cobalt-corrinoids are due to their extraordinary organometallic chemistry and their redox chemistry under physiological conditions: Coenzyme B12, methylcorrinoids, and reduced corrinoids are the cofactors in various important and unique organometallic enzymes, whose intricate structural and mechanistic properties are the current focus of strong and broad research activities. The essential role of the corrinoids in the remarkable organometallic paths of carbon fixation and further carbon metabolism in anaerobic microorganisms has attracted particular attention. Vitamin B12 and its derivatives thus hold an important position in all of the life sciences and are at the center of particular interdisciplinary interest from such diverse areas as medicine, biology, chemistry, and physics.


  • bioorganometallic chemistry;
  • biosynthesis;
  • corrin;
  • methylation;
  • methyltransfer;
  • organometallic chemistry;
  • pernicious anemia;
  • radicals;
  • rearrangement;
  • synthesis;
  • vitamin B12