Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cancer Biology


Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Jianyuan Luo, Ph.D.


Exodeoxyribonucleases, RecQ Helicases, Acetylation, Sirtuin 1, DNA Damage


Werner syndrome (WS) is an autosomal recessive disorder associated with premature aging and cancer predisposition. WS cells show increased genomic instability and are hypersensitive to DNA-damaging agents. WS is caused by mutations of the WRN gene. WRN protein is a member of RecQ DNA helicase family. In addition to a conserved 3’–5’ helicase activity, the WRN protein contains unique 3’–5’ exonuclease activity. WRN recognizes specific DNA structures as substrates that are intermediates of DNA metabolism. WRN physically and functionally interacts with many other proteins that function in telomere maintenance, DNA replication, and DNA repair. The function of WRN is regulated by post–translational modifications that include phosphorylation, acetylation, and sumoylation.

SIRT1 is a NAD-dependent histone deacetylase (HDAC) that deacetylates histones and a numbers of cellular proteins. SIRT1 regulates the functions of many proteins, which are important for apoptosis, cell proliferation, cellular metabolism, and DNA repair. SIRT1 is also regulated by other proteins or molecules from different levels to activate or inhibit its deacetylase activity.

In this study, we found that SIRT1 interacts with and deacetylates WRN. We further identified the major acetylation sites at six lysine residues of the WRN protein and made a WRN acetylation mutant for functional analysis. We found that WRN acetylation increases its protein stability. Deacetylation of WRN by SIRT1 reverses this effect. CREB-binding protein (CBP) dramatically increased the half-life of wild-type WRN, while this increase was abrogated with the WRN acetylation mutant. We further found that WRN stability is regulated by the ubiquitination pathway, and that WRN acetylation by CBP dramatically reduces its ubiquitination level.

We also found that acetylation of WRN decreases its helicase and exonuclease activities, and that SIRT1 reverses this effect. Acetylation of WRN alters its nuclear distribution. Down-regulation of SIRT1 increases WRN acetylation level and prevents WRN protein translocating back to nucleolus after DNA damage. Importantly, we found that WRN protein is strongly acetylated and stabilized in response to mitomycin C (MMC) treatment. H1299 cells that were stably expressing WRN acetylation mutant display significantly higher sensitivity to MMC than the cells expressing wild-type WRN. Taken together, these data demonstrated that acetylation pathway plays an important role in regulating WRN function in response to DNA damage. A model has been proposed based on our discoveries.



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