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Am J Hematol. 2017 Nov;92(11):1177-1186. doi: 10.1002/ajh.24879. Epub 2017 Aug 28.

SIRT1 activates the expression of fetal hemoglobin genes.

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Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, 02118.


High fetal hemoglobin (HbF, α2 γ2 ) levels ameliorate the clinical manifestations of sickle cell disease and β thalassemia. The mechanisms that repress HbF expression and silence γ-globin genes in adults are incompletely characterized and only a single HbF inducer, hydroxyurea, is approved for treatment, and only in patients with sickle cell disease. We identified SIRT1, a protein deacetylase, as a new inducer of γ-globin. SIRT1 knockdown decreased, while SIRT1 ectopic expression upregulated γ-globin gene (HBG) expression in primary human erythroid cells and in K562 cells. The small molecule SIRT1 activators SRT2104 and SRT1720 enhanced HBG expression in cord blood human erythroblasts and reactivated silenced HBG in adult human erythroblasts. Furthermore, SIRT1 binds in the β-globin gene cluster locus control region (LCR) and HBG promoters, promotes the looping of the LCR to HBG promoter, and increases the binding of RNA polymerase II and H4K16Ac in the HBG promoter. SIRT1 suppressed the expression of the HBG suppressors BCL11A, KLF1, HDAC1 and HDAC2. Lastly, SIRT1 did not change the proliferation of human erythroid progenitor cells or the expression of differentiation marker CD235a. These data suggest that SIRT1 activates HBG expression through facilitating LCR looping to the HBG promoter, inhibiting the expression of transcriptional suppressors of HBG, and indirectly increasing histone acetylation in the HBG promoter. SIRT1 is a potential therapeutic target for γ-globin gene induction, and small molecule SIRT1 activators might serve as a lead compound for the development of new HbF inducers.

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