Skip to main content
  • Poster presentation
  • Open access
  • Published:

Quantification of NADPH balance during adipogenesis


NADPH provides reducing power for macromolecule synthesis and antioxidant defense. The pathways used to make NADPH under different physiological circumstances remain unclear. In growing cells, much NADPH production is coupled to nucleotide synthesis via the oxidative pentose phosphate and folate pathways. Here we examine, using isotope tracers and flux analysis, NADPH production routes in adipocytes.

Materials and methods

Adipocytes were harvested at different time points during differentiation. To estimate NADPH demand for the reductive steps of fatty acid synthesis, lipids were isolated, saponified into fatty acids and analyzed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Direct measurement of NADPH deuterium labeling was applied to quantitate NADPH fluxes from the oxPPP and folate pathway [1, 2]. Tracing of passage of 13C from glutamine into pyruvate/lactate was applied to quantitate malic enzyme flux.


Cells synthesized 30 nM/day/uL packed cell volume of acetyl units into fatty acids. To support this, a minimum of 60 nM NADPH/day/uL cell volume is needed. The pentose phosphate pathway and folate pathways contributed less than 30% of the total required NADPH. The 13C-glutamine tracer analysis revealed that more than 5% of pyruvate came from malate, with the associated flux, if all through NADPH-dependent malic enzyme, capable of generating 300nM NADPH/ day/uL cell volume. Thus, malic enzyme flux is potentially sufficient to produce all of the required NADPH. To confirm its role, we are working to ensure that the observed flux from malate to pyruvate is via NADPH-dependent malic enzyme as opposed to NADH-dependent malic enzyme or PEPCK-pyruvate kinase.


Malic enzyme appears to be the main NADPH source in adipocytes.


  1. Fan J, et al: Quantitative flux analysis reveals folate-dependent NADPH production. Nature. 2014

    Google Scholar 

  2. Lu W, et al: Metabolomic analysis via reversed-phase ion-pairing liquid chromatography coupled to a stand alone orbitrap mass spectrometer. Anal Chem. 2010, 82: 3212-3221. 10.1021/ac902837x.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Liu, L., Shah, S., Fan, J. et al. Quantification of NADPH balance during adipogenesis. Cancer Metab 2 (Suppl 1), P40 (2014).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: