The eukaryotic nicotinamide riboside kinase (Nrk) pathway, which is induced in response to nerve damage and promotes replicative life span in yeast, converts nicotinamide riboside to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) by phosphorylation and adenylylation. Crystal structures of human Nrk1 bound to nucleoside and nucleotide substrates and products revealed an enzyme structurally similar to Rossmann fold metabolite kinases and allowed the identification of active site residues, which were shown to be essential for human Nrk1 and Nrk2 activity in vivo. Although the structures account for the 500-fold discrimination between nicotinamide riboside and pyrimidine nucleosides, no enzyme feature was identified to recognize the distinctive carboxamide group of nicotinamide riboside. Indeed, nicotinic acid riboside is a specific substrate of human Nrk enzymes and is utilized in yeast in a novel biosynthetic pathway that depends on Nrk and NAD+ synthetase. Additionally, nicotinic acid riboside is utilized in vivo by Urh1, Pnp1, and Preiss-Handler salvage. Thus, crystal structures of Nrk1 led to the identification of new pathways to NAD+.
Biosynthesis of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) is fundamental to cells, because NAD+ is an essential co-factor for metabolic and gene regulatory pathways that control life and death. Two vitamin precursors of NAD+ were discovered in 1938. We recently discovered nicotinamide riboside (NR) as a third vitamin precursor of NAD+ in eukaryotes, which extends yeast life span without caloric restriction and protects damaged dorsal root ganglion neurons from degeneration. Biosynthesis of NAD+ from NR requires enzyme activities in either of two pathways. In one pathway, specific NR kinases, including human Nrk1 and Nrk2, phosphorylate NR to nicotinamide mononucleotide. A second and Nrk-independent pathway is initiated by yeast nucleoside-splitting enzymes, Urh1 and Pnp1. We solved five crystal structures of human Nrk1 and, on the basis of co-crystal structures with substrates, suggested that the enzyme might be able to phosphorylate a novel compound, nicotinic acid riboside (NaR). We then demonstrated that human Nrk enzymes have dual specificity as NR/NaR kinases in vitro, and we established the ability of NaR to be used as a vitamin precursor of NAD+ via pathways initiated by Nrk1, Urh1, and Pnp1 in living yeast cells. Thus, starting from the structure of human Nrk1, we discovered a synthetic vitamin precursor of NAD+ and suggest the possibility that NaR is a normal NAD+ metabolite.
Eukaryotic nicotinamide riboside kinase (Nrk) converts nicotinamide riboside to NAD+ by phosphorylation and adenylylation. The structures of this enzyme bound to several substrates lead to identification of new pathways to NAD+