Picture of Folic acid

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Picture of Folic acid

Vitamins are substances that play an essential part in animal metabolic processes, but which the animals cannot synthesise. In their absence the animal develops certain deficiency diseases or other abnormal conditions. Vitamins are chemicals other than proteins, carbohydrates, fats and mineral salts that are essential constituents of the food of animals. Although certain animals can synthesise certain vitamins and all animals needing vitamin D can manufacture it from ergosterol in the presence of u.v. light, the precise mechanism of action of many vitamins is still poorly understood. Small amounts of vitamins are essential for the regulation of all bodily processes. With the exception of vitamin D, the human body cannot make its own vitamins, and some cannot be stored. Vitamins must therefore be obtained from a food on a daily basis. A person's diet must provide all the necessary vitamins.

Folic acid, pteroyl-L-glutamic acid, or vitamin Bc is involved in the formation of new cells and therefore essential for the normal growth and development of the foetus.

Folic acid and its derivatives (mostly the tri and heptaglutamyl peptides) are widespread in nature. It is a specific growth factor for certain micro-organisms, but in animals the intestinal bacteria provide small quantities needed for growth.

The coenzyme forms are actually the reduced products of folic acid. The main function of 5,6,7,8-tetrahydrofolate (THFA) is as a carrier of a C1 (methanoate) unit in the biosynthesis of purines, serines and glycine. The nitrogen atoms at 5 and 10 positions are reactive sites of the molecule.

Good sources of Vitamin Bc are most green leaves which are especially rich in the vitamin.

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for February 1997 )