Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), which is derived from NAD, have important roles as a redox carriers in metabolism. A combination of de novo and salvage pathways contribute to the biosynthesis of NAD in all organisms. The pathways and enzymes of the NAD salvage pathway in yeast and animals, which diverge at nicotinamide, have been extensively studied. Yeast cells convert nicotinamide to nicotinic acid, while mammals lack the enzyme nicotinamidase and instead convert nicotinamide to nicotinamide mononucleotide. Here we show that Arabidopsis thaliana gene At2g22570 encodes a nicotinamidase, which is expressed in all tissues, with the highest levels observed in roots and stems. The 244-residue protein, designated AtNIC1, converts nicotinamide to nicotinic acid and has a Km value of 118 +/- 17 microM and a Kcat value of 0.93 +/- 0.13 sec(-1). Plants homozygous for a null AtNIC1 allele, nic1-1, have lower levels of NAD and NADP under normal growth conditions, indicating that AtNIC1 participates in a yeast-type NAD salvage pathway. Mutant plants also exhibit hypersensitivity to treatments of abscisic acid and NaCl, which is correlated with their inability to increase the cellular levels of NAD(H) under these growth conditions, as occurs in wild-type plants. We also show that the growth of the roots of wild-type but not nic1-1 mutant plants is inhibited and distorted by nicotinamide.