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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e34525. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034525. Epub 2012 May 3.

Biochemical issues in estimation of cytosolic free NAD/NADH ratio.

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Key Laboratory for Cancer Intervention and Prevention, China National Ministry of Education, Cancer Institute, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, The Second Affiliated Hospital, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.


Cytosolic free NAD/NADH ratio is fundamentally important in maintaining cellular redox homeostasis but current techniques cannot distinguish between protein-bound and free NAD/NADH. Williamson et al reported a method to estimate this ratio by cytosolic lactate/pyruvate (L/P) based on the principle of chemical equilibrium. Numerous studies used L/P ratio to estimate the cytosolic free NAD/NADH ratio by assuming that the conversion in cells was at near-equilibrium but not verifying how near it was. In addition, it seems accepted that cytosolic free NAD/NADH ratio was a dependent variable responding to the change of L/P ratio. In this study, we show (1) that the change of lactate/glucose (percentage of glucose that converts to lactate by cells) and L/P ratio could measure the status of conversion between pyruvate + NADH and lactate + NAD that tends to or gets away from equilibrium; (2) that cytosolic free NAD/NADH could be accurately estimated by L/P only when the conversion is at or very close to equilibrium otherwise a calculation error by one order of magnitude could be introduced; (3) that cytosolic free NAD/NADH is stable and L/P is highly labile, that the highly labile L/P is crucial to maintain the homeostasis of NAD/NADH; (4) that cytosolic free NAD/NADH is dependent on oxygen levels. Our study resolved the key issues regarding accurate estimation of cytosolic free NAD/NADH ratio and the relationship between NAD/NADH and L/P.

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