The role of mitochondrial sirtuins in health and disease

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Mitochondria play a critical role in energy production, cell signalling and cell survival. Defects in mitochondrial function contribute to the ageing process and ageing-related disorders such as metabolic disease, cancer, and neurodegeneration. The sirtuin family of deacylase enzymes have a variety of subcellular localisations and have been found to remove a growing list of post-translational acyl modifications from target proteins. SIRT3, SIRT4, and SIRT5 are found primarily located in the mitochondria, and are involved in many of the key processes of this organelle. SIRT3 has been the subject of intense research and is primarily a deacetylase thought to function as a mitochondrial fidelity protein, with roles in mitochondrial substrate metabolism, protection against oxidative stress, and cell survival pathways. Less is known about the functional targets of SIRT4, which has deacetylase, ADP-ribosylase, and a newly-described lipoamidase function, although key roles in lipid and glutamine metabolism have been reported. SIRT5 modulates a host of newly-discovered acyl modifications including succinylation, malonylation, and glutarylation in both mitochondrial and extra-mitochondrial compartments, however the functional significance of SIRT5 in the regulation of many of its proposed target proteins remains to be discovered. Because of their influence on a broad range of pathways, SIRT3, SIRT4, and SIRT5 are implicated in a range of disease-states including metabolic disease such as diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and ageing-related disorders such as hearing-loss and cardiac dysfunction. We review the current knowledge on the function of the three mitochondrial sirtuins, their role in disease, and the current outstanding questions in the field.

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