Sirtuins at the crossroads of stemness, aging, and cancer

Carol O'Callaghan, Athanassios Vassilopoulos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

72 Scopus citations


Sirtuins are stress-responsive proteins that direct various post-translational modifications (PTMs) and as a result, are considered to be master regulators of several cellular processes. They are known to both extend lifespan and regulate spontaneous tumor development. As both aging and cancer are associated with altered stem cell function, the possibility that the involvement of sirtuins in these events is mediated by their roles in stem cells is worthy of investigation. Research to date suggests that the individual sirtuin family members can differentially regulate embryonic, hematopoietic as well as other adult stem cells in a tissue- and cell type-specific context. Sirtuin-driven regulation of both cell differentiation and signaling pathways previously involved in stem cell maintenance has been described where downstream effectors involved determine the biological outcome. Similarly, diverse roles have been reported in cancer stem cells (CSCs), depending on the tissue of origin. This review highlights the current knowledge which places sirtuins at the intersection of stem cells, aging, and cancer. By outlining the plethora of stem cell-related roles for individual sirtuins in various contexts, our purpose was to provide an indication of their significance in relation to cancer and aging, as well as to generate a clearer picture of their therapeutic potential. Finally, we propose future directions which will contribute to the better understanding of sirtuins, thereby further unraveling the full repertoire of sirtuin functions in both normal stem cells and CSCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1208-1218
Number of pages11
JournalAging Cell
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • EMT
  • Sirtuins
  • aging
  • calorie restriction
  • cancer
  • stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cell Biology

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