Intracellular coenzymes as natural biomarkers for metabolic activities and mitochondrial anomalies

Biomark Med. 2010 Apr;4(2):241-63. doi: 10.2217/bmm.10.1.


Mitochondria play a pivotal role in energy metabolism, programmed cell death and oxidative stress. Mutated mitochondrial DNA in diseased cells compromises the structure of key enzyme complexes and, therefore, mitochondrial function, which leads to a myriad of health-related conditions such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and aging. Early detection of mitochondrial and metabolic anomalies is an essential step towards effective diagnoses and therapeutic intervention. Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) play important roles in a wide range of cellular oxidation-reduction reactions. Importantly, NADH and FAD are naturally fluorescent, which allows noninvasive imaging of metabolic activities of living cells and tissues. Furthermore, NADH and FAD autofluorescence, which can be excited using distinct wavelengths for complementary imaging methods and is sensitive to protein binding and local environment. This article highlights recent developments concerning intracellular NADH and FAD as potential biomarkers for metabolic and mitochondrial activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers / chemistry
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Coenzymes / chemistry
  • Coenzymes / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide / chemistry
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide / metabolism
  • Fluorescence Polarization
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • NAD / chemistry
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress


  • Biomarkers
  • Coenzymes
  • NAD
  • Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide