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Cancer Res. 2005 Nov 15;65(22):10457-63.

Cancer-specific functions of SIRT1 enable human epithelial cancer cell growth and survival.

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YCR P53 Research Laboratory, Department of Biology, University of York, York, United Kingdom.


SIRT1 is a conserved NAD-dependent deacetylase that regulates life span in accord with nutritional provision. In mammalian cells, SIRT1 also down-regulates stress-induced p53 and FoxO pathways for apoptosis, thus favoring survival under stress. The functioning of SIRT1 under normal, nonstressed conditions of cell growth is unknown. Here we have asked if SIRT1 has the capacity to influence cell viability in the absence of applied stress. For this purpose we used synthetic small interfering RNA to silence SIRT1 gene expression by RNA interference (RNAi). We show that the process of RNAi, by itself, does not affect cell growth and is not sufficient to activate a cellular stress response (indicated by lack of activation of endogenous p53). We also show that, in the absence of applied stress, SIRT1 silencing induces growth arrest and/or apoptosis in human epithelial cancer cells. In contrast, normal human epithelial cells and normal human diploid fibroblasts seem to be refractory to SIRT1 silencing. Combined gene knockout with RNAi cosilencing experiments indicate that SIRT1 and Bcl-2 may suppress separable apoptotic pathways in the same cell lineage and that the SIRT1-regulated pathway is independent of p53, Bax, and caspase-2. Alternatively, SIRT1 may suppress apoptosis downstream from these apoptotic factors. In either case, we show that FoxO4 (but not FoxO3) is required as proapoptotic mediator. We further identify caspase-3 and caspase-7 as downstream executioners of SIRT1/FoxO4-regulated apoptosis. Our work identifies SIRT1 as a novel target for selective killing of cancer versus noncancer epithelial cells.

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