Methylcobalamin, an active coenzyme form of vitamin B12, is an important cofactor in the enzyme methionine synthase, which is essential for recycling homocysteine and the formation of methyl donors involved in cardiovascular function, sleep, blood cell formation, and nerve function. Coenzyme B12 serves as a cofactor in various enzymatic reactions in which a hydrogen atom is interchanged with a substituent on an adjacent carbon atom. Measurement of the dissociation energy of the coenzyme's cobalt-carbon bond and studies of the rearrangement of model free radicals related to those derived from methylmalonyl-coenzyme A suggest that these enzymatic reactions occur through homolytic dissociation of the coenzyme's cobalt-carbon bond, abstraction of a hydrogen atom from the substrate by the coenzyme-derived 5'-deoxyadenosyl radical, and rearrangement of the resulting substrate radical. The only role thus far identified for coenzyme B12 in these reactions--namely, that of a free radical precursor--reflects the weakness, and facile dissociation, of the cobalt-carbon bond.
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