SIRT1 is a member of the NAD-dependent family of sirtuin deacetylases with critical functions in cellular metabolism, response to stress and aging. Although SIRT1 is clearly a regulator of embryonic stem cells, reports on the function of SIRT1 in adult hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) have been conflicting. While SIRT1 was positively associated with HSC activity on a genetic screen, using a germline deletion of SIRT1 three groups found SIRT1 to be dispensable for adult HSC. Here, we first showed that nuclear SIRT1 expression is enriched in bone marrow-derived Lin−Sca1+cKit+ (LSK) cells, as compared to total bone marrow cells. Germline deletion of SIRT1 is associated with developmental defects and high perinatal mortality resulting in only 10% of mice reaching adulthood. To circumvent the potential developmental adaptation of these mice, we used an adult-tamoxifen inducible SIRT1 knockout mouse model. Full-length SIRT1 protein was nearly undetectable in the bone marrow and spleen of SIRT1−/− mice. Analysis of wild type and SIRT1−/− bone marrow cells, 4 weeks after tamoxifen treatment, showed that loss of SIRT1 increased the size and frequency of the LSK compartment. Interestingly, this was associated with a significant decrease in the frequency of long-term repopulating HSC as determined by SLAM markers (CD48−CD150+LSK) within LSK cells. This decrease was even more pronounced with time. In agreement with these results, the long-term repopulation ability of CD48−CD150+LSK cells is severely compromised in SIRT1−/− mice as measured 16 weeks after transplantation, strongly suggesting that SIRT1 is essential for long-term HSC function. Thus, loss of SIRT1 results in loss of long-term repopulating stem cells in favor of total LSK cells that is a more heterogeneous population of stem cells. SIRT1 has several substrates with a potential function in HSC. Among these, we focused on Foxo3 Forkhead transcription factor which is essential for the maintenance of hematopoietic and leukemic stem cell pool. Despite the importance of Foxo3 to the control of HSC function, mechanisms that regulate Foxo3 activity in HSC remain unknown. Negative regulation of FoxOs by AKT phosphorylation promotes their cytosolic localization in response to growth factors stimulation. Interestingly, Foxo3 is constitutively nuclear in bone marrow LSK and in leukemic stem cells, strongly suggesting that negative phosphorylation may not be the sole Foxo3 regulatory mechanism in these stem cells. FoxO proteins are regulated by several post-translational modifications including acetylation in addition to phosphorylation, although the impact of acetylation on Foxo3 function remains unresolved. Therefore, we asked whether regulation of adult HSC activity by SIRT1 deacetylase is mediated by Foxo3. The in vivo injection of sirtinol, a SIRT1 inhibitor, for 3 weeks compromised significantly the long-term repopulation capacity of wild type but not Foxo3−/− HSC as measured by the repopulation ability of CD48−CD150+LSK cells in lethally irradiated mice after 16 weeks. These results suggest that Foxo3 is likely to be required for SIRT1 regulation of HSC activity. In agreement with this, we showed that in contrast to wild type LSK cells, Foxo3 is mostly cytoplasmic in SIRT1−/− LSK cells, indicating that loss of SIRT1 is sufficient to translocate Foxo3 to the cytosol and presumably inhibit its activity. We further showed that ectopically expressed acetylation-mimetic mutant of Foxo3 where all putative acetyl-lysine residues are mutated to glutamine, in bone marrow mononuclear cells, is mostly localized in the cytosol in contrast to wild type Foxo3 protein and results in significant decrease of colony-forming unit-spleen (CFU-S) activity. Using pharmacological antagonism as well as conditional deletion of SIRT1 in adult HSC, we identified a critical function for SIRT1 in the regulation of long-term HSC activity. Our results contrast with previously published data obtained from germline deleted SIRT1 mice, and suggest that the use of a conditional approach is essential for unraveling SIRT1 function in adult tissues. Our data also suggest that SIRT1 regulation of HSC activity is through activation of Foxo3. These findings are likely to have an important impact on our understanding of the regulation of hematopoietic and leukemic stem cells and may be of major therapeutic value for hematological malignancies and disorders of stem cells and aging.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.