Biological and catalytic functions of sirtuin 6 as targets for small-molecule modulators

J Biol Chem. 2020 Aug 7;295(32):11021-11041. doi: 10.1074/jbc.REV120.011438. Epub 2020 Jun 9.


Sirtuin 6 (SIRT6) is a nuclear NAD+-dependent deacetylase of histone H3 that regulates genome stability and gene expression. However, nonhistone substrates and additional catalytic activities of SIRT6, including long-chain deacylation and mono-ADP-ribosylation of other proteins, have also been reported, but many of these noncanonical roles remain enigmatic. Genetic studies have revealed critical homeostatic cellular functions of SIRT6, underscoring the need to better understand which catalytic functions and molecular pathways are driving SIRT6-associated phenotypes. At the physiological level, SIRT6 activity promotes increased longevity by regulating metabolism and DNA repair. Recent work has identified natural products and synthetic small molecules capable of activating the inefficient in vitro deacetylase activity of SIRT6. Here, we discuss the cellular functions of SIRT6 with a focus on attributing its catalytic activity to its proposed biological functions. We cover the molecular architecture and catalytic mechanisms that distinguish SIRT6 from other NAD+-dependent deacylases. We propose that combining specific SIRT6 amino acid substitutions identified in enzymology studies and activity-selective compounds could help delineate SIRT6 functions in specific biological contexts and resolve the apparently conflicting roles of SIRT6 in processes such as tumor development. We further highlight the recent development of small-molecule modulators that provide additional biological insight into SIRT6 functions and offer therapeutic approaches to manage metabolic and age-associated diseases.

Keywords: SIRT6; activator; aging; cancer; cell metabolism; chromatin; gene expression; histone deacetylase (HDAC); longevity; metabolic disorder; sirtuin; small molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Catalysis
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Repair
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Longevity
  • NAD / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Sirtuins / chemistry
  • Sirtuins / metabolism*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*


  • Chromatin
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • NAD
  • SIRT6 protein, human
  • Sirtuins