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Concept: Cofactor


Cobalamin is an essential molecule for humans. It acts as a cofactor in one-carbon transfers through methylation and molecular rearrangement. These functions take place in fatty acid, amino acid and nucleic acid metabolic pathways. The deficiency of vitamin B12 is clinically manifested in the blood and nervous system where the cobalamin plays a key role in cell replication and in fatty acid metabolism. Hypovitaminosis arises from inadequate absorption, from genetic defects that alter transport through the body, or from inadequate intake as a result of diet. With the growing adoption of vegetarian eating styles in Western countries, there is growing focus on whether diets that exclude animal foods are adequate. Since food availability in these countries is not a problem, and therefore plant foods are sufficiently adequate, the most delicate issue remains the contribution of cobalamin, which is poorly represented in plants. In this review, we will discuss the status of vitamin B12 among vegetarians, the diagnostic markers for the detection of cobalamin deficiency and appropriate sources for sufficient intake, through the description of the features and functions of vitamin B12 and its absorption mechanism.

Concepts: Protein, Metabolism, Nutrition, Vitamin, Fatty acid metabolism, Biochemistry, Vitamin B12, Cofactor


Staphylococcus aureus is a preeminent bacterial pathogen capable of colonizing diverse ecological niches within its human host. We describe here the pangenome of S. aureus based on analysis of genome sequences from 64 strains of S. aureus spanning a range of ecological niches, host types, and antibiotic resistance profiles. Based on this set, S. aureus is expected to have an open pangenome composed of 7,411 genes and a core genome composed of 1,441 genes. Metabolism was highly conserved in this core genome; however, differences were identified in amino acid and nucleotide biosynthesis pathways between the strains. Genome-scale models (GEMs) of metabolism were constructed for the 64 strains of S. aureus These GEMs enabled a systems approach to characterizing the core metabolic and panmetabolic capabilities of the S. aureus species. All models were predicted to be auxotrophic for the vitamins niacin (vitamin B3) and thiamin (vitamin B1), whereas strain-specific auxotrophies were predicted for riboflavin (vitamin B2), guanosine, leucine, methionine, and cysteine, among others. GEMs were used to systematically analyze growth capabilities in more than 300 different growth-supporting environments. The results identified metabolic capabilities linked to pathogenic traits and virulence acquisitions. Such traits can be used to differentiate strains responsible for mild vs. severe infections and preference for hosts (e.g., animals vs. humans). Genome-scale analysis of multiple strains of a species can thus be used to identify metabolic determinants of virulence and increase our understanding of why certain strains of this deadly pathogen have spread rapidly throughout the world.

Concepts: Bacteria, Amino acid, Metabolism, Staphylococcus aureus, Antibiotic resistance, Vitamin, Cofactor, B vitamins


Many wildlife populations are declining at rates higher than can be explained by known threats to biodiversity. Recently, thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency has emerged as a possible contributing cause. Here, thiamine status was systematically investigated in three animal classes: bivalves, ray-finned fishes, and birds. Thiamine diphosphate is required as a cofactor in at least five life-sustaining enzymes that are required for basic cellular metabolism. Analysis of different phosphorylated forms of thiamine, as well as of activities and amount of holoenzyme and apoenzyme forms of thiamine-dependent enzymes, revealed episodically occurring thiamine deficiency in all three animal classes. These biochemical effects were also linked to secondary effects on growth, condition, liver size, blood chemistry and composition, histopathology, swimming behaviour and endurance, parasite infestation, and reproduction. It is unlikely that the thiamine deficiency is caused by impaired phosphorylation within the cells. Rather, the results point towards insufficient amounts of thiamine in the food. By investigating a large geographic area, by extending the focus from lethal to sublethal thiamine deficiency, and by linking biochemical alterations to secondary effects, we demonstrate that the problem of thiamine deficiency is considerably more widespread and severe than previously reported.

Concepts: Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Vitamin, Phosphate, Cofactor, Thiamine, Thiamine pyrophosphate


Abstract 1.  Folate, an essential micronutrient, is a critical cofactor in one-carbon metabolism. Mammals cannot synthesize folate and depend on supplementation to maintain normal levels. Low folate status may be caused by low dietary intake, poor absorption of ingested folate and alteration of folate metabolism due to genetic defects or drug interactions. 2.  Folate deficiency has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects, cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive dysfunction. Most countries have established recommended intakes of folate through folic acid supplements or fortified foods. External supplementation of folate may occur as folic acid, folinic acid or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). 3.  Naturally occurring 5-MTHF has important advantages over synthetic folic acid - it is well absorbed even when gastrointestinal pH is altered and its bioavailability is not affected by metabolic defects. Using 5-MTHF instead of folic acid reduces the potential for masking haematological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, reduces interactions with drugs that inhibit dihydrofolate reductase and overcomes metabolic defects caused by methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase polymorphism. Use of 5-MTHF also prevents the potential negative effects of unconverted folic acid in the peripheral circulation. 4.  We review the evidence for the use of 5-MTHF in preventing folate deficiency.

Concepts: Nutrition, Vitamin, Anemia, Folic acid, Folate deficiency, Megaloblastic anemia, Vitamin B12, Cofactor


Here, we show that the enzymatic cofactor tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) inhibits feeding in Drosophila. BH4 biosynthesis requires the sequential action of the conserved enzymes Punch, Purple, and Sepiapterin Reductase (Sptr). Although we observe increased feeding upon loss of Punch and Purple in the adult fat body, loss of Sptr must occur in the brain. We found Sptr expression is required in four adult neurons that express neuropeptide F (NPF), the fly homologue of the vertebrate appetite regulator neuropeptide Y (NPY). As expected, feeding flies BH4 rescues the loss of Punch and Purple in the fat body and the loss of Sptr in NPF neurons. Mechanistically, we found BH4 deficiency reduces NPF staining, likely by promoting its release, while excess BH4 increases NPF accumulation without altering its expression. We thus show that, because of its physically distributed biosynthesis, BH4 acts as a fat-derived signal that induces satiety by inhibiting the activity of the NPF neurons.

Concepts: Metabolism, Vitamin, Ribozyme, Phenylketonuria, Cofactor, Neuropeptide Y, Tetrahydrobiopterin, Sepiapterin reductase


OBJECTIVES: The RCPA Quality Assurance Program (RCPA QAP) offers monthly proficiency testing for vitamins A, B1, B6, β-carotene, C and E to laboratories worldwide. A review of results submitted for the whole blood vitamin B1/B6 sub-program revealed a wide dispersion. Here we describe the results of a methodology survey for vitamins B1 and B6. Design and Methods A questionnaire was sent to thirteen laboratories. Eleven laboratories were returning QAP results for vitamin B1 (thiamine pyrophosphate) and five were returning results for vitamin B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate). RESULTS: All nine respondents provided a clinical service for vitamin B1 and B6. HPLC with fluorescence detection was the most common method principle. For vitamin B1, six respondents used a commercial assay whilst three used in-house methods; whole blood was the matrix for all. For vitamin B6, five respondents used commercial assays and four used in-house assays. The choice of matrix for vitamin B6 varied with three respondents using whole blood and five using plasma for analysis. Sample preparation incorporated protein precipitation and derivatization steps. An internal standard was employed in sample preparation by only one survey respondent. CONCLUSIONS: The immediate result of this survey was the incorporation of plasma vitamin B6 into the RCPA QAP vitamin program. The absence of an internal standard in current vitamin B1 and B6 assays is a likely contributor to the wide dispersion of results seen in this program. We recommend kit manufacturers and laboratories investigate the inclusion of internal standards to correct for variability that may occur during processing.

Concepts: Vitamin, Cofactor, B vitamins, Thiamine, Vitamin B6, Beriberi, Christiaan Eijkman, Thiamine pyrophosphate


The human skin microbiome acts as an important barrier protecting our body from pathogens and other environmental influences. Recent investigations have provided evidence that Archaea are a constant but highly variable component of the human skin microbiome, yet factors that determine their abundance changes are unknown. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the abundance of archaea on human skin is influenced by human age and skin physiology by quantitative PCR of 51 different skin samples taken from human subjects of various age. Our results reveal that archaea are more abundant in human subjects either older than 60 years or younger than 12 years as compared to middle-aged human subjects. These results, together with results obtained from spectroscopy analysis, allowed us gain first insights into a potential link of lower sebum levels and lipid content and thus reduced skin moisture with an increase in archaeal signatures. Amplicon sequencing of selected samples revealed the prevalence of specific eury- and mainly thaumarchaeal taxa, represented by a core archaeome of the human skin.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Archaea, Bacteria, Evolution, Species, Skin, Lipid, Cofactor


Natural goods, including bee products, are particularly appreciated by consumers and are used for therapeutic purposes as alternative drugs. However, it is not known whether treatments with bee products are safe and how to minimize the health risks of such products. Among others, bee pollen is a natural honeybee product promoted as a valuable source of nourishing substances and energy. Health-enhancing value of bee pollen is expected due to the wide range of secondary plant metabolites (tocopherol, niacin, thiamine, biotin and folic acid, polyphenols, carotenoid pigments, phytosterols), besides enzymes and coenzymes, contained in bee pollen. The promising reports on the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cariogenic anti-bacterial, anti-fungicidal, hepatoprotective, anti-atherosclerotic, immune enhancing potential require long-term and large cohort clinical studies. The main difficulty in application of bee pollen in modern phytomedicine is related to the wide species-specific variation in its composition. Therefore, the variations may differently contribute to bee-pollen properties and biological activity and thus in therapeutic effects. In principle, we can unequivocally recommend bee pollen as a valuable dietary supplement. Although the bee-pollen components have potential bioactive and therapeutic properties, extensive research is required before bee pollen can be used in therapy.

Concepts: Metabolism, Nutrition, Antioxidant, Vitamin, Vitamin C, Cofactor, B vitamins, Lycopene


Suboptimal vitamin B-6 status is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, although the mechanism is unknown. The synthesis of the vasodilator hydrogen sulfide occurs through side reactions of the transsulfuration enzymes cystathionine β-synthase and cystathionine γ-lyase, with pyridoxal 5'-phosphate as a coenzyme. Two proposed hydrogen sulfide biomarkers, lanthionine and homolanthionine, are produced concurrently.

Concepts: Metabolism, Cardiovascular disease, Vitamin, Cofactor, B vitamins, Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal phosphate