SIRT1 is the closest mammalian homologue of yeast SIR2, an important ageing regulator that prolongs lifespan in response to caloric restriction. Despite its importance, the mechanisms that regulate SIRT1 activity are unclear. Our study identifies a novel post-translational modification of SIRT1, namely sumoylation at Lys 734. In vitro sumoylation of SIRT1 increased its deacetylase activity. Conversely, mutation of SIRT1 at Lys 734 or desumoylation by SENP1, a nuclear desumoylase, reduced its deacetylase activity. Stress-inducing agents promoted the association of SIRT1 with SENP1 and cells depleted of SENP1 (but not of SENP1 and SIRT1) were more resistant to stress-induced apoptosis than control cells. We suggest that stress-inducing agents counteract the anti-apoptotic activity of SIRT1 by recruiting SENP1 to SIRT1, which results in the desumoylation and inactivation of SIRT1 and the consequent acetylation and activation of apoptotic proteins.
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