[UW Today] Vitamin B-12, and a knockoff version, create complex market for marine vitamins

Associate Professor Ingalls – referenced in this UW Today Article – teaches the “OCEAN 295: Chemistry of Marine Organic Carbon” course annually. This course can be taken in place of CHEM 220 for the Aquatic & Fishery Sciences and Oceanography majors.

An oceanographic sampler, known as a rosette, during a 2013 cruise in the North Pacific. Each bottle contains water from different depths, which is how researchers collected samples of the vitamins at sea.

The New Year is a busy time for pharmacies and peddlers of all health-related products. In the oceans, marine organisms rely on nutrients, too, but the source of their vitamins is sometimes mysterious.

University of Washington oceanographers have now found that vitamin B-12 exists in two distinct versions in the oceans. A microbe thought to be a main supplier of B-12 in the open oceans, cyanobacteria, is actually making a “pseudo” version that only its kin can use.

The study has implications for where algae and other organisms can get a vitamin that is essential to fueling marine life. The paper is in the Jan. 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I think the world is getting used to the idea that all lifeforms are in some ways dependent on microorganisms,” said corresponding author Anitra Ingalls, a UW associate professor of oceanography. “This is another case where microorganisms are playing a really big role in the survival of others, but not quite in the way that we had expected.”

[read the full article at UW Today]