The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of cobalamin (Cbl) on the activity and expression of l-methylmalonyl-CoA mutase (MCM) in rat liver and cultured COS-7 cells. The MCM holoenzyme activity was less than 5 % of the total (holoenzyme+apoenzyme) activity in the liver although rats were fed a diet containing sufficient Cbl. When weanling rats were maintained on a Cbl-deficient diet, the holo-MCM activity became almost undetectable at the age of 10 weeks. In contrast, a marked increase in the total-MCM activity occurred under the Cbl-deficient conditions, and at the age of 20 weeks it was about 3-fold higher in the deficient rats than in the controls (108 (sd 14·5) v. 35 (sd 8·5) nmol/mg protein per min (n 5); P < 0·05). Western blot analysis confirmed that the MCM protein level increased significantly in the Cbl-deficient rats. However, the MCM mRNA level, determined by real-time PCR, was rather decreased. When COS-7 cells were cultured in a medium in which 10 % fetal bovine serum was the sole source of Cbl, holo-MCM activity was barely detected. The supplementation of Cbl resulted in a large increase in the holo-MCM activity in the cells, but the activity did not exceed 30 % of the total-MCM activity even in the presence of Cbl at 10 μmol/l. In contrast, the total-MCM activity was significantly decreased by the Cbl supplementation, indicating that Cbl deficiency results in an increase in the MCM protein level in COS-7 cells as well as in rat liver.