Hepatic NADH reductive stress underlies common variation in metabolic traits

Nature. 2020 Jul;583(7814):122-126. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2337-2. Epub 2020 May 27.


The cellular NADH/NAD+ ratio is fundamental to biochemistry, but the extent to which it reflects versus drives metabolic physiology in vivo is poorly understood. Here we report the in vivo application of Lactobacillus brevis (Lb)NOX1, a bacterial water-forming NADH oxidase, to assess the metabolic consequences of directly lowering the hepatic cytosolic NADH/NAD+ ratio in mice. By combining this genetic tool with metabolomics, we identify circulating α-hydroxybutyrate levels as a robust marker of an elevated hepatic cytosolic NADH/NAD+ ratio, also known as reductive stress. In humans, elevations in circulating α-hydroxybutyrate levels have previously been associated with impaired glucose tolerance2, insulin resistance3 and mitochondrial disease4, and are associated with a common genetic variant in GCKR5, which has previously been associated with many seemingly disparate metabolic traits. Using LbNOX, we demonstrate that NADH reductive stress mediates the effects of GCKR variation on many metabolic traits, including circulating triglyceride levels, glucose tolerance and FGF21 levels. Our work identifies an elevated hepatic NADH/NAD+ ratio as a latent metabolic parameter that is shaped by human genetic variation and contributes causally to key metabolic traits and diseases. Moreover, it underscores the utility of genetic tools such as LbNOX to empower studies of 'causal metabolism'.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / blood
  • Genetic Variation
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Levilactobacillus brevis / enzymology
  • Levilactobacillus brevis / genetics
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • NAD / metabolism*
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • GCKR protein, human
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Triglycerides
  • fibroblast growth factor 21
  • NAD
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • NADH oxidase
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases