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What Is SIRT1?

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  • Written By: James Carew
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) is a member of the sirtuin protein family and serves as an enzyme that is responsible for deacetylating the proteins responsible for cellular regulation. SIRT1 is classified as a nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) dependent enzyme, using the NAD+ substrate to remove acetyl groups from proteins. As such, SIRT1 has many theoretical uses beyond the standard chemical function that it serves in the body. The enzyme has been the subject of a number of tests to determine the effect that the chemical has on cellular breakdown, aging, brain disease and the metabolism, specifically related to weight loss.

SIRT1 and other members of the sirtuin protein family are part of an intricate stress response system at the cellular level. At times of great cellular stress, the enzyme can push an organism into survival mode to increase the speed at which deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is repaired and to limit cellular breakdown. As a result, the enzyme has been examined with regard to the use of it as part of a treatment to stop cellular breakdown as part of the aging process. The enzyme has shown an ability extend the lifespan of a cell, and research has been undertaken to ascertain whether this can be used to extend the lifespan of larger, multicellular organisms.

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The stilbenoid known as resveratrol has been at the center of these studies, because of research showing that resveratrol can extend the lifespan of various life forms. Some studies have indicated that resveratrol might increase the activation of the SIRT1 gene, leading to less cellular breakdown in creatures that have high metabolic action. The studies have suggested that an increased presence of SIRT1 and, by association, resveratrol, increases metabolic activity and leads to an organism burning off energy more efficiently. This is connected to the "survival mode" that SIRT1 is able to induce in a cell, producing effects similar to those of caloric restriction regimes. A caloric restriction regimen induces a higher efficiency in the metabolic process, and studies show that proper application of SIRT1 can act as a shortcut, inducing the same effect without restricting calories.

Beyond the applications related to weight loss, aging and cellular breakdown, SIRT1 has been studied in an attempt to discover how it might be used to fight brain damage. SIRT1 activates a protein known as alpha-secretase (ADAM10). The activation of ADAM10 by the sirtuin enzyme also induces the notch signaling pathway, which has been known to repair neuronal damage in the brain.

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