The function of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP) ribosylation reactions in the mechanism of apoptotic cell death is controversial, although one theory postulates an essential role for NAD depletion by poly-ADP-ribose polymerase. The present study examined the role of intracellular NAD in tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and ultraviolet (UV) light-induced activation of the 24-kD apoptotic protease (AP24) leading to internucleosomal DNA fragmentation and death. Our results demonstrate that nutritional depletion of NAD to undetectable levels in two leukemia lines (U937 and HL-60) renders them completely resistant to apoptosis. This was attributed to a block in the activation of AP24 and subsequent DNA cleavage. Normal cells show an elevation of ADP-ribosyl transferase (ADPRT) in both the cytosol and nucleus after exposure to TNF, but before DNA fragmentation. ADPRT activity as well as cell death was suppressed by an inhibitor specific for mono-ADPRT. Nuclei from NAD-depleted cells were still sensitive to DNA fragmentation induced by exogenous AP24, indicating a selective function for NAD upstream of AP24 activation in the apoptotic pathway. We confirmed a requirement for intracellular NAD, activation of ADPRT, and subsequent NAD depletion during apoptosis in KG1a, YAC-1, and BW1547 leukemia cell lines. However, this mechanism is not universal, since BJAB and Jurkat leukemia cells underwent apoptosis normally, even in the absence of detectable intracellular NAD. We conclude that TNF or UV light-induced apoptotic cell death is not due to NAD depletion in some leukemia cell lines. Rather, NAD-dependent reactions which may involve mono-ADPRT, function in signal transduction leading to activation of AP24, with subsequent DNA fragmentation and cell death.

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