U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Vitamin B12 Plays Broad Role in Cellular Metabolism
Published: January 30, 2017
Posted: March 16, 2017

Researchers explore functions controlled by vitamin B12 and the importance for microbial communities. [Image courtesy Department of Energy’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory]

Scarce compound is key for microbial growth and may help shape microbial communities.

The Science
Vitamin B12 regulates the production of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and many proteins required for normal cellular function. A recent study revealed that this compound plays an even greater role in cellular metabolism and growth than previously thought, and may even coordinate the behavior of complex microbial communities.

The Impact
The findings suggest that vitamin B12 helps shape microbial communities, which affect wide-ranging processes including energy and food production, the environment, and human health.

Summary
Vitamin B12 is used by all domains of life to control the production of DNA and a variety of proteins that support cellular function, but this vitamin is only produced by certain bacterial and archaeal species. A recent study showed that this compound has an unexpectedly broad influence on metabolic processes important for synthesis of DNA, ribonucleic acid (RNA), and proteins. To explore vitamin B12’s role in a variety of cellular processes, researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and Polytech Nice-Sophia set out to identify which proteins bind to vitamin B12. To do so, they first developed a chemical probe that mimics vitamin B12 and then directly applied the probe to live Halomonas bacterial cells. The researchers next analyzed the probe-labeled proteins using an Orbitrap mass spectrometer at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility. They found that the vitamin B12-mimicking probe interacted with 41 different proteins, including enzymes involved in the synthesis and metabolism of another B vitamin called folate, an amino acid called methionine, and a compound called ubiquinone. These metabolic processes, in turn, increase the production of DNA, RNA, and proteins. The findings reveal vitamin B12 plays a more pivotal role in cellular growth and metabolism than previously thought. As a result, this scarce compound may facilitate the coordination of cell behavior in complex microbial communities, shaping their structure, stability, and overall function.

BER PM Contact
Paul Bayer, SC-23.1, 301-903-5324

PI Contact
Lee Ann McCue
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory
leeann.mccue@pnnl.gov

Funding
This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, including support of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a DOE Office of Science user facility; Genome Science Program Foundational Scientific Focus Area at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Russian Foundation for Basic Research; and Russian Academy of Sciences.

Publication
M. Romine, D. Rodionov, Y. Maezato, L. Anderson, P. Nandhikonda, I. Rodionova, A. Carre, X. Li, C. Xu, T. Clauss, Y.-M. Kim, T. Metz, and A. T. Wright, “Elucidation of roles for vitamin B12 in regulation of folate, ubiquinone, and methionine metabolism.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 114(7), E1205-E1214 (2017). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1612360114. (Reference link)

Related Links
EMSL Article
PNNL News Release

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

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