Nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT) catalyses the reaction between nicotinamide (NAM) and S-adenosylmethionine to produce 1-methylnicotinamide and S-adenosylhomocysteine. Recently, this enzyme has also been reported to modulate hepatic nutrient metabolism, but its role in the liver has not been fully elucidated. We developed transgenic mice overexpressing NNMT to elucidate its role in hepatic nutrient metabolism. When fed a high fat diet containing NAM, a precursor for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)+, these NNMT-overexpressing mice exhibit fatty liver deterioration following increased expression of the genes mediating fatty acid uptake and decreased very low-density lipoprotein secretion. NNMT overactivation decreased the NAD+ content in the liver and also decreased gene activity related to fatty acid oxidation by inhibiting NAD+-dependent deacetylase Sirt3 function. Moreover, the transgenic mice showed liver fibrosis, with the induction of inflammatory and fibrosis genes. Induced NNMT expression decreased the tissue methylation capacity, thereby reducing methylation of the connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) gene promoter, resulting in increased CTGF expression. These data indicate that NNMT links the NAD+ and methionine metabolic pathways and promotes liver steatosis and fibrosis. Therefore, targeting NNMT may serve as a therapeutic strategy for treating fatty liver and fibrosis.
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