AIMS--To study the correlations between total vitamin B12(B12), holo-haptocorrin, and holo-transcobalamin II (holo-TCII) concentrations in human sera; the association between reduced holo-TCII concentrations and macrocytosis attributable to B12 deficiency. METHODS--Serum samples from 38 healthy volunteers, 113 patients with normal total serum B12 concentrations and 93 patients with low total serum B12 were studied. Holo-TCII was removed from whole serum by adsorption with amorphous precipitated silica, and both whole serum and adsorbed serum were assayed for B12 using the Becton Dickinson vitamin B12 [57Co] radioassay kit. RESULTS--In all three groups of subjects studied there were strong correlations between the logarithms of the total serum B12 and the holo-haptocorrin concentrations with regression coefficients between 0.884 and 0.967. By contrast, the correlations between the logarithms of the total serum B12 and holo-TCII concentrations were weaker, especially in the patients with normal or low total serum B12, for whom the regression coefficients were 0.491 and 0.391, respectively. Analysis of the clinical records of a proportion of the patients studied indicated that there were many more patients with low holo-TCII concentrations than with haematological disturbances related to B12 deficiency. CONCLUSIONS--The total serum B12 concentration is a relatively poor indicator of holo-TCII concentrations and, therefore, of the ability of serum to deliver B12 to tissues. Additional information regarding B12 values can therefore be gleaned from measuring holo-TCII concentrations in the serum. Low holo-TCII concentrations, however, are an early sign of negative B12 balance and are frequently unassociated with haematological abnormalities caused by B12 deficiency.
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