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Sunday 29 June 2008

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, abbreviated NAD+, is a coenzyme found in all living cells. The compound is a dinucleotide, since it consists of two nucleotides joined through their phosphate groups: with one nucleotide containing an adenosine ring, and the other containing nicotinamide.

In metabolism, NAD+ is involved in redox reactions, carrying electrons from one reaction to another.

The coenzyme is therefore found in two forms in cells: NAD+ is an oxidizing agent – it accepts electrons from other molecules and becomes reduced, this reaction forms NADH, which can then be used as a reducing agent to donate electrons. These electron transfer reactions are the main function of NAD+.

However, it is also used in other cellular processes, notably as a substrate of enzymes that add or remove chemical groups from proteins, in posttranslational modifications. Due to the importance of these functions, the enzymes involved in NAD+ metabolism are targets for drug discovery.

In organisms, NAD+ can be synthesized from scratch (de novo) from the amino acids tryptophan or aspartic acid. Alternatively, components of the coenzymes are taken up from food as the vitamin called niacin.

Similar compounds are released by reactions that break down the structure of NAD+. These preformed components then pass through a salvage pathway that recycles them back into the active form. Some NAD+ is also converted into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+); the chemistry of this related coenzyme is similar to that of NAD+, but it has different roles in metabolism.