Abstract δ-aminolevulinate (ALA) is an important intermediate involved in tetrapyrrole synthesis (precursor for vitamin B12, chlorophyll and heme) in vivo. It has been widely applied in agriculture and medicine. On account of many disadvantages of its chemical synthesis, microbial production of ALA has been received much attention as an alternative because of less expensive raw materials, low pollution, and high productivity. Vitamin B12, one of ALA derivatives, which plays a vital role in prevention of anaemia has also attracted intensive works. In this review, recent advances on the production of ALA and vitamin B12 with novel approaches such as whole-cell enzyme-transformation and metabolic engineering are described. Furthermore, the direction for future research and perspective are also summarized.