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Mapping NAD+ metabolism in the brain of ageing Wistar rats: potential targets for influencing brain senescence


Over the last decade, the importance of NAD+ has expanded beyond its role as an essential cofactor for energy metabolism. NAD+ has emerged as a major signalling molecule that serves as the sole substrate for several enzymatic reactions including the DNA repair enzyme, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), NAD-dependent protein deacetylases or CD38, and transcriptional factors by a new class of histone deacetylases known as sirtuins. NAD+ levels are regulated by the metabolic status and cellular stress caused by oxidative stress and DNA damage. Since a detailed study of NAD+ metabolism in the healthy ageing mammalian brain is nascent, we examined the effect of ageing on intracellular NAD+ metabolism in different brain regions in female Wistar rats in young (3 months), middle aged (12 months) and older adults (24 months). Our results are the first to show a significant decline in intracellular NAD+ levels and NAD:NADH ratio with ageing in the CNS, occurring in parallel to an increase in lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation (o- and m-tyrosine) and a decline in total antioxidant capacity. Hyperphosphorylation of H2AX levels was also observed together with increased PARP-1 and PARP-2 expression, and CD38 activity, concomitantly with reduced NAD+ and ATP levels and SIRT1 function in the cortex, brainstem, hippocampus and cerebellum. Reduced activity of mitochondrial complex I–IV and impaired maximum mitochondrial respiration rate were also observed in the ageing rat brain. Among the multiple physiological pathways associated with NAD+ catabolism, our discovery of CD38 as the major regulator of cellular NAD+ levels in rat neurons indicates that CD38 is a promising therapeutic target for the treatment of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

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This work was supported by a National Health & Medical Research Council of Australia Capacity Building Grant and a UNSW Faculty of Medicine Research Grant. NB is the recipient of an Alzheimer’s Australia Viertel Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of New South Wales. TJ is a recipient of the University of New South Wales Postgraduate Award (UPA). The authors thank the Rebecca Cooper Medical Research Foundation for their ongoing financial support and staff of the Bioanalytical Mass Spectrometry Facility at the University of New South Wales for assistance with GC–MS experiments.

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Correspondence to Perminder Sachdev.

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Braidy, N., Poljak, A., Grant, R. et al. Mapping NAD+ metabolism in the brain of ageing Wistar rats: potential targets for influencing brain senescence. Biogerontology 15, 177–198 (2014).

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  • NAD+
  • Ageing
  • Oxidative stress
  • DNA damage
  • PARP