Why do most mammals produce their own Vitamin C?
Why do Humans not?
Humans do not produce Vitamin C due to a mutation in the GULO (gulonolactone oxidase) gene, which results in the inability to synthesize the protein. Normal GULO is an enzyme that catalyses the reaction of D-glucuronolactone with oxygen to L-xylo-hex-3-gulonolactone. This then spontaneously forms Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C). However without the GULO enzyme, no vitamin C is produced.
This has not been selected against in natural selection as we are able to consume more than enough vitamin C from our diet. It is also suggested that organisms without a functional GULO gene have a method of "recycling" the vitamin C that they obtain from their diets using red blood cells (see Montel-Hagen et al. 2008).
A 2008 published study (Li et al. 2008) claimed to have successfully re-instated the ability to produce vitamin C in mice.
Simply as trivia: other than humans; guinea pigs, bats and dry-nosed primates have lost their ability to produce vitamin C in the same way.
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