ER stress-induced upregulation of NNMT contributes to alcohol-related fatty liver development

Qing Song, Yingli Chen, Jun Wang, Liuyi Hao, Chuyi Huang, Alexandra Griffiths, Zhaoli Sun, Zhangxiang Zhou, Zhenyuan Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: N-nicotinamide methyltransferase (NNMT) is emerging as an important enzyme in the regulation of metabolism. NNMT is highly expressed in the liver. However, the exact regulatory mechanism(s) underlying NNMT expression remains unclear and its potential involvement in alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) is completely unknown. Methods: Both traditional Lieber-De Carli and the NIAAA mouse models of ALD were employed. A small-scale chemical screening assay and a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay were performed. NNMT inhibition was achieved via both genetic (adenoviral short hairpin RNA delivery) and pharmacological approaches. Results: Chronic alcohol consumption induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and upregulates NNMT expression in the liver. ER stress inducers upregulated NNMT expression in both AML12 hepatocytes and mice. PERK-ATF4 pathway activation is the main contributor to ER stress-mediated NNMT upregulation in the liver. Alcohol consumption fails to upregulate NNMT in liver-specific Atf4 knockout mice. Both adenoviral NNMT knockdown and NNMT inhibitor administration prevented fatty liver development in response to chronic alcohol feeding; this was also associated with the downregulation of an array of genes involved in de novo lipogenesis, including Srebf1, Acaca, Acacb and Fasn. Further investigations revealed that activation of the lipogenic pathway by NNMT was independent of its NAD+-enhancing action; however, increased cellular NAD+, resulting from NNMT inhibition, was associated with marked liver AMPK activation. Conclusions: ER stress, specifically PERK-ATF4 pathway activation, is mechanistically involved in hepatic NNMT upregulation in response to chronic alcohol exposure. Overexpression of NNMT in the liver plays an important role in the pathogenesis of ALD. Lay summary: In this study, we show that nicotinamide methyltransferase (NNMT) – the enzyme that catalyzes nicotinamide degradation – is a pathological regulator of alcohol-related fatty liver development. NNMT inhibition protects against alcohol-induced fatty liver development and is associated with suppressed de novo lipogenic activity and enhanced AMPK activation. Thus, our data suggest that NNMT may be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of alcohol-related liver disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-793
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • ALD
  • ATF4
  • ER stress
  • Lipogenesis
  • NNMT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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