Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Summary

Biotin deficiency may becoming more common owing to 21st century diet and lifestyle factors which directly deplete the vitamin such as excess consumption of alcohol, smoking, the use of vitamin-depleting pharmaceutical drugs, and malabsorptive bowel disorders but may also occur for genetic reasons. Biotin is essential for the proper functioning of enzymes responsible for energy-production, biosynthesis of fats, formation of neurotransmitters, the manufacture of amino acids and the release of insulin. Biotin deficiency is associated with symptoms of hair loss and baldness (alopecia), red, scaly, flaky itchy skin rashes around the nose, mouth, eyes, trunk or genitals (seborrheic dermatitis), conjunctivitis, low blood sugar spells (hypoglycaemia), lassitude, lethargy, depression, drowsiness and a strong desire for sleep (somnolence), hallucinations, neuromuscular dysfunction, numbness or pins and needles in the hands, fingers, feet or toes (parasthesias) and muscle pain (myalgia). If severe it may cause ketolactic acidosis, organic aciduria, hyperammonaemia, skin rash, feeding problems, hypotonia, seizures, developmental delay, alopecia and coma. Biotin deficiency may be implicated in the development of type II (non-insulin dependent) diabetes, diabetic neuropathy and birth defects. These conditions often get misdiagnosed as illnesses in their own right by doctors and psychiatrists unfamiliar with this simple biochemical imbalance and they may resort to prescribing pharmaceutical drugs to manage symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. Biotin deficiency responds well to the introduction of biotin supplements, sometimes at high dose.

About Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Biotin (Vitamin H from “haar und haut” meaning “hair and skin” in German, Coenzyme R) is an essential water-soluble sulphur-containing vitamin which cannot be synthesised by the body and must be taken in through the diet. Its name originates from the Greek word bios meaning “life” and the vitamin is rich in several foods such as liver, egg yolks and milk.

This vitamin is required for the proper functioning of certain enzymes involved in the regulation of blood sugar. For instance, it has a role in the energy-producing Krebs cycle, the manufacture of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as amino acids (gluconeogenesis) and as a coenzyme in the synthesis of fatty acids and the manufacture of neutral amino acids L-isoleucine and L-valine. For this reason adequate biotin is needed for maintaining a steady blood sugar level. Biotin is also required for the transfer of carbon dioxide in several metabolic reactions which, together with its role in regulating blood ammonia levels, determines the level of blood acidity (pH). It is also required at the genetic level where its attachment to various chemical sites in the process of biotinylation determines protein interactions, DNA replication and transcription during gene expression.

Before it can be used by the body biotin must be extracted and separated from ingested food into its free unbound form by the enzyme biotinidase for absorption by the small intestine. Holocarboxylase synthetase is in turn responsible for attaching biotin to the various biotin-dependent carboxylase enzymes that need it to become activated. Biotinidase is then responsible for recycling free biotin from the various carboxylase enzymes that use it.

Specifically, biotin is required for the functioning of the enzymes pyruvate carboxylase, acetyl-CoA carboxylase alpha, acetyl-CoA carboxylase beta, methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase, and propionyl-CoA carboxylase. Pyruvate carboxylase plays a crucial role in gluconeogenesis, synthesis of fat (lipogenesis), in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters and in glucose-induced insulin secretion by pancreatic islet cells. Propionyl-CoA carboxylase catalyses the carboxylation of propionyl CoA into  (S)-methylmalonyl CoA as a source of succinyl-CoA that is used as fuel in the energy-producing Krebs cycle. Methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase catalyses the fourth step in catabolising the neutral amino acid L-leucine into the energy molecules acetyl CoA and acetoacetate. And acetyl-CoA carboxylase alpha and beta provide the malonly-CoA substrate for the biosynthesis of fatty acids. Unlike most vitamins which are non-covalently bound to enzymes, biotin is covalently attached to these carboxylase enzymes through the amino acid L-lysine forming a complex called biocytin. For this reason it cannot be so easily removed and must be acted upon by the biotinidase enzyme to be regenerated for use.

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