Sirtuins' control of autophagy and mitophagy in cancer

M. Aventaggiato, E. Vernucci, F. Barreca, M.A. Russo, M. Tafani

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Mammalian cells use a specialized and complex machinery for the removal of altered proteins or dysfunctional organelles. Such machinery is part of a mechanism called autophagy. Moreover, when autophagy is specifically employed for the removal of dysfunctional mitochondria, it is called mitophagy. Autophagy and mitophagy have important physiological implications and roles associated with cellular differentiation, resistance to stresses such as starvation, metabolic control and adaptation to the changing microenvironment. Unfortunately, transformed cancer cells often exploit autophagy and mitophagy for sustaining their metabolic reprogramming and growth to a point that autophagy and mitophagy are recognized as promising targets for ongoing and future antitumoral therapies. Sirtuins are NAD+ dependent deacylases with a fundamental role in sensing and modulating cellular response to external stresses such as nutrients availability and therefore involved in aging, oxidative stress control, inflammation, differentiation and cancer. It is clear, therefore, that autophagy, mitophagy and sirtuins share many common aspects to a point that, recently, sirtuins have been linked to the control of autophagy and mitophagy. In the context of cancer, such a control is obtained by modulating transcription of autophagy and mitophagy genes, by post translational modification of proteins belonging to the autophagy and mitophagy machinery, by controlling ROS production or major metabolic pathways such as Krebs cycle or glutamine metabolism. The present review details current knowledge on the role of sirtuins, autophagy and mitophagy in cancer to then proceed to discuss how sirtuins can control autophagy and mitophagy in cancer cells. Finally, we discuss sirtuins role in the context of tumor progression and metastasis indicating glutamine metabolism as an example of how a concerted activation and/or inhibition of sirtuins in cancer cells can control autophagy and mitophagy by impinging on the metabolism of this fundamental amino acid.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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