Dihydronicotinamide riboside promotes cell-specific cytotoxicity by tipping the balance between metabolic regulation and oxidative stress

PLoS One. 2020 Nov 9;15(11):e0242174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242174. eCollection 2020.


Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), the essential cofactor derived from vitamin B3, is both a coenzyme in redox enzymatic processes and substrate in non-redox events; processes that are intimately implicated in all essential bioenergetics. A decrease in intracellular NAD+ levels is known to cause multiple metabolic complications and age-related disorders. One NAD+ precursor is dihydronicotinamide riboside (NRH), which increases NAD+ levels more potently in both cultured cells and mice than current supplementation strategies with nicotinamide riboside (NR), nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) or vitamin B3 (nicotinamide and niacin). However, the consequences of extreme boosts in NAD+ levels are not fully understood. Here, we demonstrate the cell-specific effects of acute NRH exposure in mammalian cells. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG3) cells show dose-dependent cytotoxicity when supplemented with 100-1000 μM NRH. Cytotoxicity was not observed in human embryonic kidney (HEK293T) cells over the same dose range of NRH. PUMA and BAX mediate the cell-specific cytotoxicity of NRH in HepG3. When supplementing HepG3 with 100 μM NRH, a significant increase in ROS was observed concurrent with changes in the NAD(P)H and GSH/GSSG pools. NRH altered mitochondrial membrane potential, increased mitochondrial superoxide formation, and induced mitochondrial DNA damage in those cells. NRH also caused metabolic dysregulation, altering mitochondrial respiration. Altogether, we demonstrated the detrimental consequences of an extreme boost of the total NAD (NAD+ + NADH) pool through NRH supplementation in HepG3. The cell-specific effects are likely mediated through the different metabolic fate of NRH in these cells, which warrants further study in other systemic models.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial
  • NAD / analogs & derivatives*
  • NAD / toxicity
  • NADP / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • BAX protein, human
  • BBC3 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • NAD
  • NADP
  • Glutathione