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Sir2 (whose homolog in mammals is known as SIRT1, SIR2L1 or Sir2α) is the namesake of a family of closely related enzymes, the sirtuins (Sir-two-ns). Members of this family have been found in nearly all organisms studied. Sirtuins are hypothesized to play a key role in an organism's response to stresses (such as heat or starvation) and to be responsible for the lifespan-extending effects of calorie restriction.
Additional recommended knowledge
Nomenclature in various organisms
Sir2 is short for Silent mating type Information Regulation-2 and sirtuin stands for Sir2-homolog.
Method of action and observed effects
Sirtuins act by removing acetyl groups from proteins in the presence of NAD+; they are thus classified as "NAD+-dependent deacetylases" and have EC number 3.5.1. They add the acetyl group from the protein to the ADP-ribose part of NAD+ to form O-acetyl-ADP-ribose.
In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, overexpression of the Sir2 gene results in a lifespan extension of about 30%, if the lifespan is measured as the number of cell divisions the cell can undergo before dying. This is due to Sir2 deacetylating (removing an acetyl group from) histone molecules, which results in tighter packaging and lower level of transcription of the cell's DNA. Sir2 is thus classified as a histone deacetylase.
Starving of yeast cells leads to a similarly extended lifespan, and indeed starving increases the available amount of NAD+ and reduces nicotinamide, both increasing the activity of Sir2. Furthermore, removing the Sir2 gene eliminates the life-extending effect of calorie restriction. Experiments in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster support these findings. As of 2006, experiments in mice are underway.
However, some other findings call the above interpretation into question. If one measures the lifespan of a yeast cell as the amount of time it can live in a non-dividing stage, then silencing the Sir2 gene actually increases lifespan  Furthermore, calorie restriction can substantially prolong reproductive lifespan in yeast even in the absence of Sir2.
In organisms more complicated than yeast, it appears that Sir2 acts by deacetylation of several other proteins besides histones.
Resveratrol is a substance which experiments have shown to have a number of life-extending and health benefits in various species; it also increases the activity of Sir2 and this is the postulated reason for its beneficial effects. Resveratrol is produced by plants when they are stressed, and it is possible that plants use the substance to increase their own Sir2 activity in order to survive periods of stress. However, these claims are controversial: it has been reported that the observed effect of resvertatrol on Sir2 activity is likely an artifact of the experimental setup and does not reflect biological reality.
In the fruit fly Drosophilia melanogaster the Sir2 gene does not seem to be essential; loss of a sirtuin gene only has very subtle effects. However mice lacking the SIRT1 gene (the sir2 biological equivalent) were smaller than normal at birth, often died early or became sterile.
Seven sirtuins are known in mammals.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sir2". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|