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Clin Chem Lab Med. 2016 Sep 1;54(9):1467-72. doi: 10.1515/cclm-2015-1167.

An International Standard for holotranscobalamin (holoTC): international collaborative study to assign a holoTC value to the International Standard for vitamin B12 and serum folate.



Investigation of possible B12 and folate deficiencies requires measurement of these vitamins in serum. There is evidence that holotranscobalamin (holoTC), the active portion of B12 available to cells, is a more specific marker of early B12 deficiency than total B12. The availability of immunoassays for holoTC prompted an international collaborative study to assign a holoTC value to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1st International Standard (IS) for vitamin B12 and serum folate, 03/178.


The IS, 03/178, and three serum samples with different holoTC levels were assayed by 12 laboratories in eight countries using manual and automated immunoassays for holoTC; one laboratory additionally performed an in-house assay. Fourteen sets of data were analysed.


Overall, the IS, 03/178, and the three serum samples demonstrated assay linearity and parallelism. An overall geometric mean (GM) holoTC value of 106.8 pmol/L was obtained for 03/178, with an inter-laboratory geometric coefficient of variation (GCV) of 10.5%. There was a reduction in inter-laboratory variability when the holoTC levels in the serum samples were determined relative to the IS with an assigned holoTC value rather than to the assays' calibration. Accelerated degradation studies showed that 03/178 was sufficiently stable to serve as an IS for holoTC.


The WHO Expert Committee on Biological Standardization endorsed the proposal to assign a holoTC value of 107 pmol/L to 03/178, corresponding to 0.107 pmol per ampoule, for use as the 1st IS for vitamin B12, serum folate, and holoTC.

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