September 12, 2016
Biologists, geneticists, and other scientists who study the cellular processes of aging have long focused on a gene known as sirtuin 6 (SIRT6)—so much so that it’s been identified as a “longevity gene.” Mice lacking the gene age prematurely, while mice with extra copies live longer. One of the molecular functions of SIRT6 is to help repair DNA when the strands of the molecule break. While such disruptions are a result of normal chemical processes that take place in cells, the damage has been linked to aging, as well as several age-related diseases. But how SIRT6 is activated has been unknown. Now a research team led by Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov, professors of biology at the University of Rochester, has discovered a protein that may serve as a first responder, activating SIRT6 and setting in motion a cascade of molecular activity to repair the damaged DNA.