Mechanisms of vitamin B12 absorption in breast-fed infants

Yuriko Adkins, Bo Lönnerdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objectives: The mechanisms of vitamin B12 absorption in infants are unknown. We investigated whether haptocorrin (HC), a vitamin B12-binding protein in human milk, facilitates vitamin B12 absorption during the neonatal period or if it occurs by a process similar to that in adults involving another vitamin B12-binding protein, intrinsic factor (IF). Methods: To determine whether HC or IF can deliver vitamin B12 to the enterocyte, binding studies using Caco-2 intestinal cells in culture and purified human milk HC-[57Co] vitamin B12 or [125I]IF-vitamin B12 were performed. Determination of IF secretion by infant stomach was investigated by a competitive ELISA on fecal extracts from breast-fed infants. Determination of receptors specific for IF-vitamin B12 or HC-vitamin B12 in infant intestine was achieved by ligand blot analysis using isolated brush border membrane vesicles (BBMV) from fetal and adult intestine and Caco-2 cells. PCR was performed to identify the IF receptor gene transcript in Caco-2 cells and fetal intestine. Results: Limited binding of both HC and IF to Caco-2 cells was observed; however, HC displayed affinity to low molecular weight proteins in BBMV from fetal intestine and Caco-2 cells while IF showed affinity for a 240 kDa protein in BBMV from fetal intestine and Caco-2 cells. IF receptor gene transcript was identified in fetal intestine and Caco-2 cells. An increase in IF excretion from breast-fed infants throughout early life was observed. Conclusions: An IF-dependent vitamin B12 absorption mechanism appears to be in place in breast-fed infants. However, IF levels may be too low in early life to participate in vitamin B12 absorption; therefore, haptocorrin may mediate vitamin B12 absorption until the absorption function can be taken over by a more mature IF system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-198
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2002


  • Cobalamin
  • Cubilin
  • Haptocorrin
  • Intrinsic Factor Receptor
  • Vitamin B

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Histology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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