The anaerobic biosynthesis of vitamin B12 is slowly being unravelled. Recent work has shown that the first committed step along the anaerobic route involves the sirohydrochlorin (chelation of cobalt into factor II). The following enzyme in the pathway, CbiL, methylates cobalt-factor II to give cobalt-factor III. Recent progress on the molecular characterization of this enzyme has given a greater insight into its mode of action and specificity. Structural studies are being used to provide insights into how aspects of this highly complex biosynthetic pathway may have evolved. Between cobalt-factor III and cobyrinic acid, only one further intermediate has been identified. A combination of molecular genetics, recombinant DNA technology and bioorganic chemistry has led to some recent advances in assigning functions to the enzymes of the anaerobic pathway.

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