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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