MUT reaction mechanism begins with homolytic cleavage of AdoB12's C-Co(III) bond, the C and Co atoms each acquire one of the electrons that formed the cleaved electron pair bond. The Co ion, therefore, fluctuates between its Co(III) and Co(II) oxidation states [the two states are spectroscopically distinguishable: Co(III) is red and diamagnetic (no unpaired electrons), whereas Co(II) is yellow and paramagnetic (unpaired electrons)]. Hence, the role of coenzyme B-12 in the catalytic process is that of a reversible free radical generator. The C-Co(III) bond is well suited to this function because it is inherently weak (dissociation energy = 109 kJ/mol) and appears to be further weakened through steric interactions with the enzyme. A homolytic cleavage reaction is unusual in biology; most other biological bond cleavage reactions occur via heterolytic cleavage (in which the electron pair forming the cleaved bond is fully acquired by one of the separating atoms).
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