Discovery

The name folate is derived from the latin for leaf, folium, and is the generic term for a large group of water-soluble B vitamins. Its name stems from the fact that the vitamin is found in leafy green vegetables, the source from which it was originally isolated. Liver, yeast extract, and citrus fruits are also good natural sources of the vitamin. The story of this vitamin's beneficial properties first began in 1931 when Lucy Wills reported that injections of yeast or liver autolysate were effective in treating tropical macrocytic anemia, which was common during late pregnancy in India (18). Although she did not know it at the time, the biologically active principle was folic acid. Later, the endeavors of several researchers (19-22) led to the discovery of a nutritional hemopoietic factor that was eventually identified as N-(4-{((2-amino-4-hydroxy-6-pteridiny1)methyl)amino}benzoyl) glutamic acid. In 1941, Mitchell et al. proposed the alternative name of "folic acid" (21).

During the intervening years, it has been established that the various coen-zyme analogs of folic acid facilitate the transfer of one-carbon units from donor compounds into important biosynthetic pathways leading to purines, pyrimidines, and methionine. They are also involved in the interconversion of serine and glycine as well as histidine catabolism.

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