BackgroundPostoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) is a very common complication that might increase the morbidity and mortality of elderly patients after surgery. However, the mechanism of POCD remains largely unknown. The NAD-dependent deacetylase protein Sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) is located in the mitochondria and regulates mitochondrial function. SIRT3 is the only sirtuin that specifically plays a role in extending lifespan in humans and is associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of SIRT3 on anesthesia/surgery-induced cognitive impairment in aged mice.MethodsSIRT3 expression levels were decreased after surgery. For the interventional study, an adeno-associated virus (AAV)-SIRT3 vector or an empty vector was microinjected into hippocampal CA1 region before anesthesia/surgery. Western blotting, immunofluorescence staining, and enzyme-linked immune-sorbent assay (ELISA) were used to measure the oxidative stress response and downstream microglial activation and proinflammatory cytokines, and Golgi staining and long-term potentiation (LTP) recording were applied to evaluate synaptic plasticity.ResultsOverexpression of SIRT3 in the CA1 region attenuated anesthesia/surgery-induced learning and memory dysfunction as well as synaptic plasticity dysfunction and the oxidative stress response (superoxide dismutase [SOD] and malondialdehyde [MDA]) in aged mice with POCD. In addition, microglia activation (ionized calcium binding adapter molecule 1 [Iba1]) and neuroinflammatory cytokine levels (tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF-α], interleukin [IL]-1β and IL-6) were regulated after anesthesia/surgery in a SIRT3-dependent manner.ConclusionThe results of the current study demonstrate that SIRT3 has a critical effect in the mechanism of POCD in aged mice by suppressing hippocampal neuroinflammation and reveal that SIRT3 may be a promising therapeutic and diagnostic target for POCD.