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Cardiovasc Res. 2013 Mar 1;97(3):571-9. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvs352. Epub 2012 Dec 1.

SIRT6 protects human endothelial cells from DNA damage, telomere dysfunction, and senescence.

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  • 1School of Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Western Avenue, Cardiff CF5 2YB, UK.



Although endothelial cell senescence is known to play an important role in the development of cardiovascular pathologies, mechanisms that attenuate this process have not been extensively investigated. The aim of this study was to investigate whether SIRT6, a member of the sirtuin family of NAD(+)-dependent protein deacetylases/ADP-ribosyltransferases, protects endothelial cells from premature senescence and dysfunction, and if so which is its mode of action.


mRNA expression analysis demonstrated comparable levels of SIRT1 and SIRT6 transcripts in endothelial cells derived from different vascular beds and significantly higher levels of SIRT6 in these cells relative to those in haematopoietic progenitor cells. SIRT6 depletion by RNA interference in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and aortic endothelial cells reduced cell proliferation, increased the fraction of senescence-associated-β-galactosidase-positive cells, and diminished the ability of the cells to form tubule networks on Matrigel. Further examination of SIRT6-depleted HUVEC demonstrated higher intercellular-adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and plasminogen-activator inhibitor-1 mRNA, lower levels of endothelial nitric oxide synthase mRNA and protein, higher ICAM-1 surface expression, and up-regulation of p21. Fluorescence microscopy of SIRT6-depleted HUVEC stained with anti-phospho-histone H2A.X and anti-telomere-repeat-binding-factor-1 antibodies showed evidence of increased nuclear DNA damage and the formation of telomere dysfunction-induced foci.


This work demonstrates that the presence of SIRT6 in endothelial cells confers protection from telomere and genomic DNA damage, thus preventing a decrease in replicative capacity and the onset of premature senescence. These findings suggest that SIRT6 may be important to maintain endothelial homeostatic functions and delay vascular ageing.

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