NAD(P) biosynthetic pathways can be considered a generous source of enzymatic targets for drug development. Key reactions for NAD(P) biosynthesis in all organisms, common to both de novo and salvage routes, are catalyzed by NMN/NaMN adenylyltransferase (NMNAT), NAD synthetase (NADS), and NAD kinase (NADK). These reactions represent a three-step pathway, present in the vast majority of living organisms, which is responsible for the generation of both NAD and NADP cellular pools. The validation of these enzymes as drug targets is based on their essentiality and conservation among a large variety of pathogenic microorganisms, as well as on their differential structural features or their differential metabolic contribution to NAD(P) homeostasis between microbial and human cell types. This review describes the structural and functional properties of eubacterial and human enzymes endowed with NMNAT, NADS, and NADK activities, as well as with nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NamPRT) and nicotinamide riboside kinase (NRK) activities, highlighting the species-related differences, with emphasis on their relevance for drug design. In addition, since the overall NMNAT activity in humans is accounted by multiple isozymes differentially involved in the metabolic activation of antineoplastic compounds, their individual diagnostic value for early therapy optimization is outlined. The involvement of human NMNAT in neurodegenerative disorders and its role in neuroprotection is also discussed.
Keywords: NAD homeostasis, NAD enzymology, pyridine nucleotides, structural biology, NAD analogs, drug design