FK866-induced NAMPT inhibition activates AMPK and downregulates mTOR signaling in hepatocarcinoma cells


Nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) is the key enzyme of the NAD salvage pathway starting from nicotinamide. Cancer cells have an increased demand for NAD due to their high proliferation and DNA repair rate. Consequently, NAMPT is considered as a putative target for anti-cancer therapies. There is evidence that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) become dysregulated during the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here, we investigated the effects of NAMPT inhibition by its specific inhibitor FK866 on the viability of hepatocarcinoma cells and analyzed the effects of FK866 on the nutrient sensor AMPK and mTOR complex1 (mTORC1) signaling.


FK866 markedly decreased NAMPT activity and NAD content in hepatocarcinoma cells (Huh7 cells, Hep3B cells) and led to delayed ATP reduction which was associated with increased cell death. These effects could be abrogated by administration of nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), the enzyme product of NAMPT. Our results demonstrated a dysregulation of the AMPK/mTOR pathway in hepatocarcinoma cells compared to non-cancerous hepatocytes with a higher expression of mTOR and a lower AMPKα activation in hepatocarcinoma cells. We found that NAMPT inhibition by FK866 significantly activated AMPKα and inhibited the activation of mTOR and its downstream targets p70S6 kinase and 4E-BP1 in hepatocarcinoma cells. Non-cancerous hepatocytes were less sensitive to FK866 and did not show changes in AMPK/mTOR signaling after FK866 treatment.


Taken together, these findings reveal an important role of the NAMPT-mediated NAD salvage pathway in the energy homeostasis of hepatocarcinoma cells and suggest NAMPT inhibition as a potential treatment option for HCC.

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