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Br J Nutr. 2013 Nov 14;110(9):1672-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513000974. Epub 2013 Apr 29.

Unravelling the basis of variability in cobalamin levels in the general population.

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Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King's College London, London, UK.


Cobalamin (Cbl) is an essential B vitamin involved in the normal functioning of the nervous system, the formation of key components of blood, DNA synthesis and methylation, and energy production. Physiological levels of Cbl vary greatly within populations, although the basis for this variability remains largely unknown. We conducted a twin study to characterise the basis of variation in plasma Cbl levels and to test whether common genetic polymorphisms in genes known to cause defects in inborn errors of Cbl metabolism and transport are also associated with mean plasma Cbl levels in the general population. The present results showed that plasma levels of Cbl were heritable, with genetic and phenotypic variance increasing with age, and levels significantly correlated with age, BMI, exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking status, social class and folate levels, which collectively accounted for up to 15 % of Cbl variation. Of eight genes responsible for the defects of the Cbl metabolic pathway (cblA-G and mut), MMAA, MMACHC, MTRR and MUT harboured polymorphisms that showed evidence of association with Cbl levels. Characterisation of the heritable component of variation in Cbl levels can facilitate the early diagnosis and prognosis of Cbl insufficiency/deficiency in individuals at a higher risk of associated diseases.

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