Understanding the role of nicotinamide (NIC) in different cell systems represents a significant challenge in several respects. Recently, NIC has been reported to have diverse roles during cell biology. In the absence of NIC, sirtuin protein activity is enhanced and pyrazinamidase/nicotinamidase 1 (PNC1) expression, an enzyme that deaminates NIC to convert NIC into nicotinic acid, is increased to lead to lifespan extension during calorie restriction, at least in yeast. Yet, NIC may be critical for cell survival as well as the modulation of inflammatory injury during both experimental models as well as in clinical studies. We therefore investigated some of the underlying signal transduction pathways that could be critical for the determination of the neuroprotective properties of NIC. We examined neuronal injury by trypan blue exclusion, DNA fragmentation, phosphatidylserine (PS) exposure, Akt1 phosphorylation, Bad phosphorylation, mitochondrial membrane potential, caspase activity, cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), and mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) phosphorylation. Application of NIC (12.5 mM) significantly increased neuronal survival from 38 -/+ 3% of anoxia treated alone to 68 +/- 3%, decreased DNA fragmentation and membrane PS exposure from 67 -/+ 4% and 61 -/+ 5% of anoxia treated alone to 30 +/- 4% and 26 +/- 4% respectively. We further demonstrate that NIC functions through Akt1 activation, Bad phosphorylation, and the downstream modulation of mitochrondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, caspase 1, 3, and 8 - like activities, and PARP integrity to prevent genomic DNA degradation and PS externalization during anoxia. Yet, NIC does not alter the activity of either the MAPKs p38 or JNK, suggesting that protection by NIC during anoxia is independent of the p38 and JNK pathways. Additional investigations targeted to elucidate the cellular pathways responsible for the ability of NIC to modulate both lifespan extension and cytoprotection may offer critical insight for the development of new therapies for nervous system disorders.