Research identifies new marine source of B12

Research published in The ISME Journal has revealed that a group of microorganisms – Thaumarchaeota – is among the most abundant producers of cobalamin (vitamin B12) in our global oceans.

Vitamin B12plays a vital role in synthesizing DNA in cells throughout the body as well as maintaining the brain and nervous systems.

The team from the University of Waterloo, led by Prof Andrew Doxey and Josh Neufeld, noted that although vitamin B12 is essential to many branches of life, it is only produced by a small number of microorganisms as it is so large and complex. This microbial group has never previously been associated with vitamin B12 synthesis.

Doxy commented on the findings: “We assumed that most major global sources of something as fundamental as vitamin B12 would have already been characterized, and so this finding changes how we think about global production of this important vitamin.”

The researchers used computational methods to search through vast amounts of sequenced environmental DNA for the genes that make vitamin B12, identifying the likely producers in marine and freshwater environments.