In obesity and type 2 diabetes, Glut4 glucose transporter expression is decreased selectively in adipocytes. Adipose-specific knockout or overexpression of Glut4 alters systemic insulin sensitivity. Here we show, using DNA array analyses, that nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (Nnmt) is the most strongly reciprocally regulated gene when comparing gene expression in white adipose tissue (WAT) from adipose-specific Glut4-knockout or adipose-specific Glut4-overexpressing mice with their respective controls. NNMT methylates nicotinamide (vitamin B3) using S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) as a methyl donor. Nicotinamide is a precursor of NAD+, an important cofactor linking cellular redox states with energy metabolism. SAM provides propylamine for polyamine biosynthesis and donates a methyl group for histone methylation. Polyamine flux including synthesis, catabolism and excretion, is controlled by the rate-limiting enzymes ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) and spermidine-spermine N1-acetyltransferase (SSAT; encoded by Sat1) and by polyamine oxidase (PAO), and has a major role in energy metabolism. We report that NNMT expression is increased in WAT and liver of obese and diabetic mice. Nnmt knockdown in WAT and liver protects against diet-induced obesity by augmenting cellular energy expenditure. NNMT inhibition increases adipose SAM and NAD+ levels and upregulates ODC and SSAT activity as well as expression, owing to the effects of NNMT on histone H3 lysine 4 methylation in adipose tissue. Direct evidence for increased polyamine flux resulting from NNMT inhibition includes elevated urinary excretion and adipocyte secretion of diacetylspermine, a product of polyamine metabolism. NNMT inhibition in adipocytes increases oxygen consumption in an ODC-, SSAT- and PAO-dependent manner. Thus, NNMT is a novel regulator of histone methylation, polyamine flux and NAD+ -dependent SIRT1 signalling, and is a unique and attractive target for treating obesity and type 2 diabetes.
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