Uridine monophosphate synthetase enables eukaryotic de novo NAD+ biosynthesis from quinolinic acid

Melanie R. McReynolds, Wenqing Wang, Lauren M. Holleran, Wendy Hanna-Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


NAD+ biosynthesis is an attractive and promising therapeutic target for influencing health span and obesity-related phenotypes as well as tumor growth. Full and effective use of this target for therapeutic benefit requires a complete understanding of NAD+ biosynthetic pathways. Here, we report a previously unrecognized role for a conserved phosphoribosyltransferase in NAD+ biosynthesis. Because a required quinolinic acid phosphoribosyltransferase (QPRTase) is not encoded in its genome, Caenorhabditis elegans are reported to lack a de novo NAD+ biosynthetic pathway. However, all the genes of the kynurenine pathway required for quinolinic acid (QA) production from tryptophan are present. Thus, we investigated the presence of de novo NAD+ biosynthesis in this organism. By combining isotope-tracing and genetic experiments, we have demonstrated the presence of an intact de novo biosynthesis pathway for NAD+ from tryptophan via QA, highlighting the functional conservation of this important biosynthetic activity. Supplementation with kynurenine pathway intermediates also boosted NAD+ levels and partially reversed NAD+-dependent phenotypes caused by mutation of pnc-1, which encodes a nicotinamidase required for NAD+ salvage biosynthesis, demonstrating contribution of de novo synthesis to NAD+ homeostasis. By investigating candidate phosphoribosyltransferase genes in the genome, we determined that the conserved uridine monophosphate phosphoribosyltransferase (UMPS), which acts in pyrimidine biosynthesis, is required for NAD+ biosynthesis in place of the missing QPRTase. We suggest that similar underground metabolic activity of UMPS may function in other organisms. This mechanism for NAD+ biosynthesis creates novel possibilities for manipulating NAD+ biosynthetic pathways, which is key for the future of therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11147-11153
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 7 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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