Researchers discover new producer of crucial vitamin

September 11, 2014, University of Waterloo

(Phys.org) —New research has determined that a single group of micro-organisms may be responsible for much of the world's vitamin B12 production in the oceans, with implications for the global carbon cycle and climate change.

Although vitamin B12 is an essential molecule required by most life on this planet, it is only produced by a relatively small group of micro-organisms because it is so large and complex. For humans, vitamin B12 plays a key role in maintaining the brain and nervous systems, as well as DNA synthesis in cells throughout the body.

Professors Andew Doxey and Josh Neufeld, from the Faculty of Science at the University of Waterloo, led a study that discovered that Thaumarchaeota are likely dominant vitamin B12 producers. This group from the Archea domain has never before been associated with vitamin B12 synthesis.

"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," said Professor Doxey.

The researchers, both of whom teach in the Department of Biology at Waterloo, 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.

"Because Thaumarchaeota are among the most abundant organisms on the planet, especially in marine environments, their contribution to vitamin B12 production have enormous implications for ecology and metabolism in the oceans," said Professor Neufeld.

The availability of vitamin B12 may control how much or how little biological productivity by phytoplankton takes place in the oceans. Phytoplankton remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, much like plants and trees, thus reducing the atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas, the largest contributor to global warming.

The research also found that proportions of archaeal B12synthesis genes increased with ocean depth and were more prevalent in winter and polar waters, suggesting that archaeal B12 may be critical for the survival of other species in both the deep and cold .

The findings were recently published online in the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Journal.

Explore further: Low vitamin B12 linked to postural orthostatic tachycardia

More information: Paper - www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v … l/ismej2014142a.html

Related Stories

Pathway between gut and liver regulates bone mass

June 9, 2014

Researchers have uncovered a previously unknown biological process involving vitamin B12 and taurine that regulates the production of new bone cells. This pathway could be a potential new target for osteoporosis treatment.

Vitamin B12 may protect the brain in old age

September 8, 2008

Vitamin B12, a nutrient found in meat, fish and milk, may protect against brain volume loss in older people, according to a study published in the September 9, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American ...

Recommended for you

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.