Axon degeneration is an intrinsic self-destruction program that underlies axon loss during injury and disease. Sterile alpha and TIR motif-containing 1 (SARM1) protein is an essential mediator of axon degeneration. We report that SARM1 initiates a local destruction program involving rapid breakdown of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD(+)) after injury. We used an engineered protease-sensitized SARM1 to demonstrate that SARM1 activity is required after axon injury to induce axon degeneration. Dimerization of the Toll-interleukin receptor (TIR) domain of SARM1 alone was sufficient to induce locally mediated axon degeneration. Formation of the SARM1 TIR dimer triggered rapid breakdown of NAD(+), whereas SARM1-induced axon destruction could be counteracted by increased NAD(+) synthesis. SARM1-induced depletion of NAD(+) may explain the potent axon protection in Wallerian degeneration slow (Wld(s)) mutant mice.
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