by Bob McCauley, ND
In a paper published recently in the journal Nature, scientists from the University of Michigan Health System and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report they have created the first full 3-D images of B12 and its partner molecules twisting and contorting as part of a crucial reaction called methyltransfer.
That reaction is vital both in the cells of the human body and, in a slightly different way, in the cells of bacteria that consume carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. That includes bacteria that live in the guts of humans, cows and other animals, and help with digestion.
“Without this transfer of single carbon units involving B12, and its partner B9 (otherwise known as folic acid), heart disease and birth defects might be far more common,” explains Stephen Ragsdale, Ph.D, a professor of biological chemistry. “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.”
The images were produced by aiming intense beams of X-rays at crystallized forms of the protein complex and painstakingly determining the position of every atom inside.