Nicotinate and nicotinamide metabolism

Nicotinic acid (anionic form: nicotinate) is also known as niacin or vitamin B3. Nicotinamide is the amide derivative of nicotinic acid. Nicotinate and nicotinamide are essential for organisms as the precursors for generation of coenzymes, NAD+ and NADP+, which are essential for redox reactions and carry electrons from one reaction to another. They therefore exist in oxidised (NAD(P)+) and reduced (NAD(P)H) forms. These coenzymes are crucial for many metabolic pathways including glycolysis, TCA cycle, pentose phosphate cycle, fatty acid biosynthesis and metabolism pathways and many others. The apicomplexans such as Plasmodium falciparum, Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum cannot synthesise nicotinate and nicotinamide de novo, but, they can salvage it from host or extracellular medium. These organisms can incorporate salvaged vitamin B3 derivatives to synthesise NAD+ and NADP+. Both Plasmodium species and Coccidians, T. gondii and N. caninum possess the genes for the enzymes which catalyse generation of NAD+ and NADP+ from nicotinate salvaged from host. In addition, they possess the enzyme nicotinamidase suggesting that nicotinamide can also be salvaged for NAD(P)+ generation. Time-dependent transcription of P. falciparum genes coding these enzymes are available ( and was analysed [1]. The study conducted by Zerez and Ginsburg demonstrated 10-fold increase in NAD+ content and more than 3-fold difference in nicotinate phosphoribosyltransferase activity in P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes compared to uninfected erythrocytes. The nicotinamidase activity was undetectable in uninfected samples and very high levels of activity were observed in infected erythrocytes demonstrating Plasmodium’s ability to utilise nicotinamide from host/medium and synthesise nicotinate. The genes encoding enzymes nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase and NAD pyrophosphorylase was not identified in either P. falciparum or Coccidian genomes. The 3.5-fold increase in nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase activity was seen in infected erythrocytes, although the activity is about 1/65th of that of nicotinate phosphoribosyltransferase activity [2]. The difference in the activity of NAD pyrophosphorylase is not significant between uninfected and infected samples. It is not known whether P. falciparum possess these enzymes or whether P. falciparum nicotinate phosphoribosyltransferase enzyme can also accept nicotinamide as substrate in higher nicotinamide concentration. These enzymes were not included in MPMP pathway of nicotinate and nicotinamide metabolism. As these two enzymes are not present in T. gondii and N. caninum genomes and no biochemical evidence is yet available for these Coccidia, they are not incorporated into the pathway below.


Enzyme EC Number Gene id
Pyridine nucleotide transhydrogenase NCLIV_010900
Pyridine nucleotide transhydrogenase NCLIV_012720
Nicotinate phosphoribosyltransferase NCLIV_003160
NAD+ kinase NCLIV_019250
Nicotinate-nucleotide adenylyltransferase Missing in annotation
Nicotinamidase NCLIV_023670
NAD+ synthase NCLIV_036740


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Sources and fates of metabolites


Substrate Source pathways Product Fate pathways
Nicotinate Host    
Nicotinamide Host    
PRPP Pentose phosphate cycle    
Glutamine Glutamate metabolism Glutamate Glutamate metabolism