In pancreatic islet cell culture models and animal models, we studied the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of insulin-dependent diabetes. The diabetogenic agents, alloxan and streptozotocin, caused DNA strand breaks, which in turn activated poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase/synthetase (PARP) to deplete NAD+, thereby inhibiting islet β-cell functions such as proinsulin synthesis and ultimately leading to β-cell necrosis. Radical scavengers protected against the formation of DNA strand breaks and inhibition of proinsulin synthesis. Inhibitors of PARP prevented the NAD+ depletion, inhibition of proinsulin synthesis and β-cell death. These findings led to the proposed unifying concept for β-cell damage and its prevention (the Okamoto model). The model met one proof with PARP knockout animals and was further extended by the discovery of cyclic ADP-ribose as the second messenger for Ca2+ mobilization in glucose-induced insulin secretion and by the identification of Reg (Regenerating gene) for β-cell regeneration. Physiological and pathological events found in pancreatic β-cells have been observed in other cells and tissues.
We examined the development of gastric cancer risk screening, from rat pepsinogen studies in an experimental rat gastric carcinogenesis model induced with N-methyl-N′-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) and human pepsinogen studies in the 1970s and 1980s to the recent “ABC method” for human gastric cancer risk screening. First, decreased expression or absence of a major pepsinogen isozyme, PG1, was observed in the rat gastric mucosa from the early stages of gastric carcinogenesis to adenocarcinomas following treatment with MNNG. In the 1980s, decreases in PGI in the human gastric mucosa and serum were identified as markers of atrophic gastritis. In the 1990s, other researchers revealed that chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori (Hp) causes atrophic gastritis and later gastric cancer. In the 2000s, a gastric cancer risk screening method combining assays to detect serum anti-Hp IgG antibody and serum PGI and PGII levels, the “ABC method”, was established. Eradication of Hp and endoscopic follow-up examination after the ABC method are recommended to prevent gastric cancer.
Polyphosphate [poly(P)] is described as a homopolymer of inorganic phosphates. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide kinase (NAD kinase) catalyzes the phosphorylation of NAD+ to NADP+ in the presence of ATP (ATP-NAD kinase). Novel NAD kinase that explicitly phosphorylates NAD+ to NADP+ using poly(P), besides ATP [ATP/poly(P)-NAD kinase], was found in bacteria, in particular, Gram-positive bacteria, and the gene encoding ATP/poly(P)-NAD kinase was also newly identified in Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv. Both NAD kinases required multi-homopolymeric structures for activity expression. The enzymatic and genetic results, combined with their primary and tertiary structures, have led to the discovery of a long-awaited human mitochondrial NAD kinase. This discovery showed that the NAD kinase is a bacterial type of ATP/poly(P)-NAD kinase. These pioneering findings, i.e., ATP/poly(P)-NAD kinase, NAD kinase gene, and human mitochondrial NAD kinase, have significantly enhanced research on the biochemistry, molecular biology, and evolutionary biology of NAD kinase, mitochondria, and poly(P), including some biotechnological knowledge applicable to NADP+ production.