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1.  Human RNF169 is a negative regulator of the ubiquitin-dependent response to DNA double-strand breaks 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;197(2):189-199.
RNF169 competes with repair factors to bind to ubiquitylated chromatin at sites of DNA damage, influencing repair pathway utilization.
Nonproteolytic ubiquitylation of chromatin surrounding deoxyribonucleic acid double-strand breaks (DSBs), mediated by the RNF8/RNF168 ubiquitin ligases, plays a key role in recruiting repair factors, including 53BP1 and BRCA1, to reestablish genome integrity. In this paper, we show that human RNF169, an uncharacterized E3 ubiquitin ligase paralogous to RNF168, accumulated in DSB repair foci through recognition of RNF168-catalyzed ubiquitylation products by its motif interacting with ubiquitin domain. Unexpectedly, RNF169 was dispensable for chromatin ubiquitylation and ubiquitin-dependent accumulation of repair factors at DSB sites. Instead, RNF169 functionally competed with 53BP1 and RAP80–BRCA1 for association with RNF168-modified chromatin independent of its catalytic activity, limiting the magnitude of their recruitment to DSB sites. By delaying accumulation of 53BP1 and RAP80 at damaged chromatin, RNF169 stimulated homologous recombination and restrained nonhomologous end joining, affecting cell survival after DSB infliction. Our results show that RNF169 functions in a noncanonical fashion to harness RNF168-mediated protein recruitment to DSB-containing chromatin, thereby contributing to regulation of DSB repair pathway utilization.
PMCID: PMC3328375  PMID: 22492721
2.  RNF4 is required for DNA double-strand break repair in vivo 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2012;20(3):490-502.
Unrepaired DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) cause genetic instability that leads to malignant transformation or cell death. Cells respond to DSBs with the ordered recruitment of signaling and repair proteins to the sites of DNA lesions. Coordinated protein SUMOylation and ubiquitylation have crucial roles in regulating the dynamic assembly of protein complexes at these sites. However, how SUMOylation influences protein ubiquitylation at DSBs is poorly understood. We show herein that Rnf4, an E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets SUMO-modified proteins, accumulates in DSB repair foci and is required for both homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining repair. To establish a link between Rnf4 and the DNA damage response (DDR) in vivo, we generated an Rnf4 allelic series in mice. We show that Rnf4-deficiency causes persistent ionizing radiation-induced DNA damage and signaling, and that Rnf4-deficient cells and mice exhibit increased sensitivity to genotoxic stress. Mechanistically, we show that Rnf4 targets SUMOylated MDC1 and SUMOylated BRCA1, and is required for the loading of Rad51, an enzyme required for HR repair, onto sites of DNA damage. Similarly to inactivating mutations in other key regulators of HR repair, Rnf4 deficiency leads to age-dependent impairment in spermatogenesis. These findings identify Rnf4 as a critical component of the DDR in vivo and support the possibility that Rnf4 controls protein localization at DNA damage sites by integrating SUMOylation and ubiquitylation events.
PMCID: PMC3569989  PMID: 23197296
DNA damage; homologous recombination; RNF4; BRCA1; MDC1; Rad51; spermatogenesis
3.  RNF8-Independent Lys63 Poly-Ubiquitylation Prevents Genomic Instability in Response to Replication-Associated DNA Damage 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89997.
The cellular response to DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) involves the ordered assembly of repair proteins at or near sites of damage. This process is mediated through post-translational protein modifications that include both phosphorylation and ubiquitylation. Recent data have demonstrated that recruitment of the repair proteins BRCA1, 53BP1, and RAD18 to ionizing irradiation (IR) induced DSBs is dependent on formation of non-canonical K63-linked polyubiquitin chains by the RNF8 and RNF168 ubiquitin ligases. Here we report a novel role for K63-ubiquitylation in response to replication-associated DSBs that contributes to both cell survival and maintenance of genome stability. Suppression of K63-ubiquitylation markedly increases large-scale mutations and chromosomal aberrations in response to endogenous or exogenous replication-associated DSBs. These effects are associated with an S-phase specific defect in DNA repair as revealed by an increase in residual 53BP1 foci. Use of both knockdown and knockout cell lines indicates that unlike the case for IR-induced DSBs, the requirement for K63-ubiquitylation for the repair of replication associated DSBs was found to be RNF8-independent. Our findings reveal the existence of a novel K63-ubiquitylation dependent repair pathway that contributes to the maintenance of genome integrity in response to replication-associated DSBs.
PMCID: PMC3938561  PMID: 24587176
4.  Homozygous deficiency of ubiquitin-ligase ring-finger protein RNF168 mimics the radiosensitivity syndrome of ataxia-telangiectasia 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2011;18(9):1500-1506.
Maintaining genomic integrity is critical to avoid life-threatening disorders, such as premature aging, neurodegeneration and cancer. A multiprotein cascade operates at sites of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) to recognize, signal and repair damage. RNF168 (ring-finger nuclear factor) contributes to this emerging pathway of several E3 ubiquitin ligases that perform sequential ubiquitylations on damaged chromosomes, chromatin modifications essential for aggregation of repair complexes at the DSB sites. Here, we report the clinical and cellular phenotypes associated with a newly identified homozygous nonsense mutation in the RNF168 gene of a patient with a syndrome mimicking ataxia-telangiectasia. The mutation eliminated both of RNF168's ubiquitin-binding motifs, thus blocking progression of the ubiquitylation cascade and retention of repair proteins including tumor suppressors 53BP1 and BRCA1 at DSB sites, consistent with the observed defective DNA damage checkpoints/repair and pronounced radiosensitivity. Rapid screening for RNF168 pathway deficiency was achieved by scoring patients' lymphoblastoid cells for irradiation-induced nuclear foci containing 53BP1, a robust assay we propose for future diagnostic applications. The formation of radiation-induced DSB repair foci was rescued by ectopic expression of wild-type RNF168 in patient's cells, further causally linking the RNF168 mutation with the pathology. Clinically, this novel syndrome featured ataxia, telangiectasia, elevated alphafetoprotein, immunodeficiency, microcephaly and pulmonary failure and has implications for the differential diagnosis of autosomal recessive ataxias.
PMCID: PMC3178430  PMID: 21394101
DNA damage signaling and repair; RNF168 and BRCA1 ubiquitin ligases; ionizing radiation-induced 53BP1 foci; ataxia-telangiectasia mimicking syndrome; alphafetoprotein, microcephaly
5.  The NuRD chromatin–remodeling complex regulates signaling and repair of DNA damage 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;190(5):741-749.
NuRD is recruited to DNA double-strand breaks, where it promotes RNF8/RNF168 histone ubiquitylation and accumulation of DNA repair factors (see also related paper by Larsen et al. in this issue).
Cells respond to ionizing radiation (IR)–induced DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by orchestrating events that coordinate cell cycle progression and DNA repair. How cells signal and repair DSBs is not yet fully understood. A genome-wide RNA interference screen in Caenorhabditis elegans identified egr-1 as a factor that protects worm cells against IR. The human homologue of egr-1, MTA2 (metastasis-associated protein 2), is a subunit of the nucleosome-remodeling and histone deacetylation (NuRD) chromatin-remodeling complex. We show that knockdown of MTA2 and CHD4 (chromodomain helicase DNA-binding protein 4), the catalytic subunit (adenosine triphosphatase [ATPase]) of NuRD, leads to accumulation of spontaneous DNA damage and increased IR sensitivity. MTA2 and CHD4 accumulate in DSB-containing chromatin tracks generated by laser microirradiation. Directly at DSBs, CHD4 stimulates RNF8/RNF168-dependent formation of ubiquitin conjugates to facilitate the accrual of RNF168 and BRCA1. Finally, we show that CHD4 promotes DSB repair and checkpoint activation in response to IR. Thus, the NuRD chromatin–remodeling complex is a novel regulator of DNA damage responses that orchestrates proper signaling and repair of DSBs.
PMCID: PMC2935570  PMID: 20805320
6.  The ubiquitin specific protease USP34 promotes ubiquitin signaling at DNA double-strand breaks 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(18):8572-8580.
Ubiquitylation plays key roles in DNA damage signal transduction. The current model envisions that lysine63-linked ubiquitin chains, via the concerted action of E3 ubiquitin ligases RNF8-RNF168, are built at DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) to effectively assemble DNA damage-repair factors for proper checkpoint control and DNA repair. We found that RNF168 is a short-lived protein that is stabilized by the deubiquitylating enzyme USP34 in response to DNA damage. In the absence of USP34, RNF168 is rapidly degraded, resulting in attenuated DSB-associated ubiquitylation, defective recruitment of BRCA1 and 53BP1 and compromised cell survival after ionizing radiation. We propose that USP34 promotes a feed-forward loop to enforce ubiquitin signaling at DSBs and highlight critical roles of ubiquitin dynamics in genome stability maintenance.
PMCID: PMC3794584  PMID: 23863847
7.  Mammalian SUMO E3-ligases PIAS1 and PIAS4 promote responses to DNA double-strand breaks 
Nature  2009;462(7275):935-939.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are highly cytotoxic lesions that are generated by ionizing radiation (IR) and various DNA-damaging chemicals. Following DSB formation, cells activate the DNA-damage response (DDR) protein kinases ATM, ATR and DNA-PK. These then trigger histone H2AX phosphorylation and the accumulation of proteins such as MDC1, 53BP1, BRCA1, CtIP, RNF8 and RNF168/RIDDLIN into IR-induced foci (IRIF) that amplify DSB signalling and promote DSB repair1,2. Attachment of Small Ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) to target proteins controls diverse cellular functions3-6. Here, we show that SUMO1, SUMO2 and SUMO3 accumulate at DSB sites in mammalian cells, with SUMO1 and SUMO2/3 accrual requiring the E3 ligase enzymes PIAS4 and PIAS1. We also establish that PIAS1 and PIAS4 are recruited to damage sites via mechanisms requiring their SAP domains, and are needed for the productive association of 53BP1, BRCA1 and RNF168 with such regions. Furthermore, we show that PIAS1 and PIAS4 promote DSB repair and confer IR resistance. Finally, we establish that PIAS1 and PIAS4 are required for effective Ubiquitin-adduct formation mediated by RNF8, RNF168 and BRCA1 at sites of DNA damage7-11. These findings thus identify PIAS1 and PIAS4 as components of the DDR and reveal how protein recruitment to DSB sites is controlled by coordinated sumoylation and ubiquitylation.
PMCID: PMC2904806  PMID: 20016603
8.  The de-ubiquitylating enzymes USP26 and USP37 regulate homologous recombination by counteracting RAP80 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(14):6919-6933.
The faithful repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is essential to safeguard genome stability. DSBs elicit a signaling cascade involving the E3 ubiquitin ligases RNF8/RNF168 and the ubiquitin-dependent assembly of the BRCA1-Abraxas-RAP80-MERIT40 complex. The association of BRCA1 with ubiquitin conjugates through RAP80 is known to be inhibitory to DSB repair by homologous recombination (HR). However, the precise regulation of this mechanism remains poorly understood. Through genetic screens we identified USP26 and USP37 as key de-ubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs) that limit the repressive impact of RNF8/RNF168 on HR. Both DUBs are recruited to DSBs where they actively remove RNF168-induced ubiquitin conjugates. Depletion of USP26 or USP37 disrupts the execution of HR and this effect is alleviated by the simultaneous depletion of RAP80. We demonstrate that USP26 and USP37 prevent excessive spreading of RAP80-BRCA1 from DSBs. On the other hand, we also found that USP26 and USP37 promote the efficient association of BRCA1 with PALB2. This suggests that these DUBs limit the ubiquitin-dependent sequestration of BRCA1 via the BRCA1-Abraxas-RAP80-MERIT40 complex, while promoting complex formation and cooperation of BRCA1 with PALB2-BRCA2-RAD51 during HR. These findings reveal a novel ubiquitin-dependent mechanism that regulates distinct BRCA1-containing complexes for efficient repair of DSBs by HR.
PMCID: PMC4538816  PMID: 26101254
9.  Genomic Instability, Defective Spermatogenesis, Immunodeficiency, and Cancer in a Mouse Model of the RIDDLE Syndrome 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1001381.
Eukaryotic cells have evolved to use complex pathways for DNA damage signaling and repair to maintain genomic integrity. RNF168 is a novel E3 ligase that functions downstream of ATM,γ-H2A.X, MDC1, and RNF8. It has been shown to ubiquitylate histone H2A and to facilitate the recruitment of other DNA damage response proteins, including 53BP1, to sites of DNA break. In addition, RNF168 mutations have been causally linked to the human RIDDLE syndrome. In this study, we report that Rnf168−/− mice are immunodeficient and exhibit increased radiosensitivity. Rnf168−/− males suffer from impaired spermatogenesis in an age-dependent manner. Interestingly, in contrast to H2a.x−/−, Mdc1−/−, and Rnf8−/− cells, transient recruitment of 53bp1 to DNA double-strand breaks was abolished in Rnf168−/− cells. Remarkably, similar to 53bp1 inactivation, but different from H2a.x deficiency, inactivation of Rnf168 impairs long-range V(D)J recombination in thymocytes and results in long insertions at the class-switch junctions of B-cells. Loss of Rnf168 increases genomic instability and synergizes with p53 inactivation in promoting tumorigenesis. Our data reveal the important physiological functions of Rnf168 and support its role in both γ-H2a.x-Mdc1-Rnf8-dependent and -independent signaling pathways of DNA double-strand breaks. These results highlight a central role for RNF168 in the hierarchical network of DNA break signaling that maintains genomic integrity and suppresses cancer development in mammals.
Author Summary
The repair of DNA damage is fundamental as illustrated by the many human syndromes, immunodeficiencies, and cancers associated with defects in DNA damage signaling and repair. RIDDLE syndrome, caused by mutations of the human RNF168, is a novel hereditary disease clinically characterized by radiosensitivity, immunodeficiency, dysmorphic features, and learning difficulties. RNF168 is an E3 ligase that modifies histones and chromatin structure at sites of DNA breaks. In this study, we show that Rnf168 deficiency in mice leads to increased radiosensitivity, immunodeficiency, and defective spermatogenesis. Additionally, dual inactivation of Rnf168 and p53 leads to increased cancer risk. Collectively these data demonstrate important and broad physiological functions for Rnf168.
PMCID: PMC3084200  PMID: 21552324
10.  Writers, Readers, and Erasers of Histone Ubiquitylation in DNA Double-Strand Break Repair 
Frontiers in Genetics  2016;7:122.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are highly cytotoxic DNA lesions, whose faulty repair may alter the content and organization of cellular genomes. To counteract this threat, numerous signaling and repair proteins are recruited hierarchically to the chromatin areas surrounding DSBs to facilitate accurate lesion repair and restoration of genome integrity. In vertebrate cells, ubiquitin-dependent modifications of histones adjacent to DSBs by RNF8, RNF168, and other ubiquitin ligases have a key role in promoting the assembly of repair protein complexes, serving as direct recruitment platforms for a range of genome caretaker proteins and their associated factors. These DNA damage-induced chromatin ubiquitylation marks provide an essential component of a histone code for DSB repair that is controlled by multifaceted regulatory circuits, underscoring its importance for genome stability maintenance. In this review, we provide a comprehensive account of how DSB-induced histone ubiquitylation is sensed, decoded and modulated by an elaborate array of repair factors and regulators. We discuss how these mechanisms impact DSB repair pathway choice and functionality for optimal protection of genome integrity, as well as cell and organismal fitness.
PMCID: PMC4923129  PMID: 27446204
DNA damage response; ubiquitin; DNA double-strand breaks; chromatin; DNA repair; histones
11.  RAP80 and RNF8, key players in the recruitment of repair proteins to DNA damage sites 
Cancer letters  2008;271(2):179-190.
Chromosomal double-strand breaks (DSBs) in eukaryotes provoke a rapid, extensive modification in chromatin flanking the breaks. The DNA damage response (DDR) coordinates activation of cell cycle checkpoints, apoptosis, and DNA repair networks, to ensure accurate repair and genomic integrity. The checkpoint kinase ATM plays a critical role in the initiation of DDR in response to DSBs. The early ATM-mediated phosphorylation of the histone variant H2AX proteins near DSBs leads to the subsequent binding of MDC1, which functions as a scaffold for the recruitment and assembly of many DDR mediators and effectors, including BRCA1. Recent studies have provided new insights into the mechanism by which BRCA1 and associated proteins are recruited to DNA damage foci and revealed key roles for the receptor-associated protein 80 (RAP80) and the E3 ligase RNF8 in this process. RAP80 is an ubiquitin-interaction motif (UIM) containing protein that is associated with a BRCA1/BARD1 complex through its interaction with CCDC98 (Abraxas). The UIMs of RAP80 are critical for targeting this protein complex to DSB sites. Additional studies revealed that after binding γ-H2AX, ATM-phosphorylated MDC1 is recognized by the FHA domain of RNF8, which subsequently binds the E2 conjugating enzyme UBC13. This complex catalyzes K63-linked polyubiquitination of histones H2A and γH2AX, which are then recognized by the UIMs of RAP80, thereby facilitating the recruitment of the BRCA1/BARD1/CCDC98/RAP80 protein complex to DSB sites. Depletion of RAP80 or RNF8 impairs the translocation of BRCA1 to DNA damage sites and results in defective cell cycle checkpoint control and DSB repair. In this review, we discuss this cascade of protein phosphorylation and ubiquitination and the role it plays in the control of cellular responses to genotoxic stress by regulating the interactions, localization, and function of DDR proteins.
PMCID: PMC2749678  PMID: 18550271
double strand breaks; RAP80; RNF8; ubiquitination; CCDC98/Abraxas; BRCA1; UIM; MDC1
12.  BMI1 Is Recruited to DNA Breaks and Contributes to DNA Damage-Induced H2A Ubiquitination and Repair ▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(10):1972-1982.
DNA damage activates signaling pathways that lead to modification of local chromatin and recruitment of DNA repair proteins. Multiple DNA repair proteins having ubiquitin ligase activity are recruited to sites of DNA damage, where they ubiquitinate histones and other substrates. This DNA damage-induced histone ubiquitination is thought to play a critical role in mediating the DNA damage response. We now report that the polycomb protein BMI1 is rapidly recruited to sites of DNA damage, where it persists for more than 8 h. The sustained localization of BMI1 to damage sites is dependent on intact ATM and ATR and requires H2AX phosphorylation and recruitment of RNF8. BMI1 is required for DNA damage-induced ubiquitination of histone H2A at lysine 119. Loss of BMI1 leads to impaired repair of DNA double-strand breaks by homologous recombination and the accumulation of cells in G2/M. These data support a crucial role for BMI1 in the cellular response to DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC3133356  PMID: 21383063
13.  Overexpression of the scaffold WD40 protein WRAP53β enhances the repair of and cell survival from DNA double-strand breaks 
Cell Death & Disease  2016;7(6):e2267-.
Altered expression of the multifunctional protein WRAP53β (WD40 encoding RNA Antisense to p53), which targets repair factors to DNA double-strand breaks and factors involved in telomere elongation to Cajal bodies, is linked to carcinogenesis. While loss of WRAP53β function has been shown to disrupt processes regulated by this protein, the consequences of its overexpression remain unclear. Here we demonstrate that overexpression of WRAP53β disrupts the formation of and impairs the localization of coilin to Cajal bodies. At the same time, the function of this protein in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks is enhanced. Following irradiation, cells overexpressing WRAP53β exhibit more rapid clearance of phospho-histone H2AX (γH2AX), and more efficient homologous recombination and non-homologous end-joining, in association with fewer DNA breaks. Moreover, in these cells the ubiquitylation of damaged chromatin, which is known to facilitate the recruitment of repair factors and subsequent repair, is elevated. Knockdown of the ubiquitin ligase involved, ring-finger protein 8 (RNF8), which is recruited to DNA breaks by WRAP53β, attenuated this effect, suggesting that overexpression of WRAP53β leads to more rapid repair, as well as improved cell survival, by enhancing RNF8-mediated ubiquitylation at DNA breaks. Our present findings indicate that WRAP53β and RNF8 are rate-limiting factors in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks and raise the possibility that upregulation of WRAP53β may contribute to genomic stability in and survival of cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC5143398  PMID: 27310875
14.  DNA damage–inducible SUMOylation of HERC2 promotes RNF8 binding via a novel SUMO-binding Zinc finger 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;197(2):179-187.
SUMOylation of the ubiquitin ligase HERC2 promotes efficient chromatin licensing in the vicinity of DNA double-strand breaks.
Nonproteolytic ubiquitylation of chromatin surrounding deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) double-strand breaks (DSBs) by the RNF8/RNF168/HERC2 ubiquitin ligases facilitates restoration of genome integrity by licensing chromatin to concentrate genome caretaker proteins near the lesions. In parallel, SUMOylation of so-far elusive upstream DSB regulators is also required for execution of this ubiquitin-dependent chromatin response. We show that HERC2 and RNF168 are novel DNA damage–dependent SUMOylation targets in human cells. In response to DSBs, both HERC2 and RNF168 were specifically modified with SUMO1 at DSB sites in a manner dependent on the SUMO E3 ligase PIAS4. SUMOylation of HERC2 was required for its DSB-induced association with RNF8 and for stabilizing the RNF8–Ubc13 complex. We also demonstrate that the ZZ Zinc finger in HERC2 defined a novel SUMO-specific binding module, which together with its concomitant SUMOylation and T4827 phosphorylation promoted binding to RNF8. Our findings provide novel insight into the regulatory complexity of how ubiquitylation and SUMOylation cooperate to orchestrate protein interactions with DSB repair foci.
PMCID: PMC3328386  PMID: 22508508
15.  A Novel Aspect of Tumorigenesis—BMI1 Functions in Regulating DNA Damage Response 
Biomolecules  2015;5(4):3396-3415.
BMI1 plays critical roles in maintaining the self-renewal of hematopoietic, neural, intestinal stem cells, and cancer stem cells (CSCs) for a variety of cancer types. BMI1 promotes cell proliferative life span and epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). Upregulation of BMI1 occurs in multiple cancer types and is associated with poor prognosis. Mechanistically, BMI1 is a subunit of the Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1), and binds the catalytic RING2/RING1b subunit to form a functional E3 ubiquitin ligase. Through mono-ubiquitination of histone H2A at lysine 119 (H2A-K119Ub), BMI1 represses multiple gene loci; among these, the INK4A/ARF locus has been most thoroughly investigated. The locus encodes the p16INK4A and p14/p19ARF tumor suppressors that function in the pRb and p53 pathways, respectively. Its repression contributes to BMI1-derived tumorigenesis. BMI1 also possesses other oncogenic functions, specifically its regulative role in DNA damage response (DDR). In this process, BMI1 ubiquitinates histone H2A and γH2AX, thereby facilitating the repair of double-stranded DNA breaks (DSBs) through stimulating homologous recombination and non-homologous end joining. Additionally, BMI1 compromises DSB-induced checkpoint activation independent of its-associated E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. We review the emerging role of BMI1 in DDR regulation and discuss its impact on BMI1-derived tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC4693283  PMID: 26633535
BMI1; histone ubiquitination; DNA damage response (DDR); ATM; γH2AX; H2A; repair of double-stranded DNA breaks; checkpoint activation
16.  Class switching and meiotic defects in mice lacking the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF8 
53BP1 is a well-known mediator of the cellular response to DNA damage. Two alternative mechanisms have been proposed to explain 53BP1’s interaction with DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), one by binding to methylated histones and the other via an RNF8 E3 ligase–dependent ubiquitylation pathway. The formation of RNF8 and 53BP1 irradiation-induced foci are both dependent on histone H2AX. To evaluate the contribution of the RNF8-dependent pathway to 53BP1 function, we generated RNF8 knockout mice. We report that RNF8 deficiency results in defective class switch recombination (CSR) and accumulation of unresolved immunoglobulin heavy chain–associated DSBs. The CSR DSB repair defect is milder than that observed in the absence of 53BP1 but similar to that found in H2AX−/− mice. Moreover, similar to H2AX but different from 53BP1 deficiency, RNF8−/− males are sterile, and this is associated with defective ubiquitylation of the XY chromatin. Combined loss of H2AX and RNF8 does not cause further impairment in CSR, demonstrating that the two genes function epistatically. Importantly, although 53BP1 foci formation is RNF8 dependent, its binding to chromatin is preserved in the absence of RNF8. This suggests a two-step mechanism for 53BP1 association with chromatin in which constitutive loading is dependent on interactions with methylated histones, whereas DNA damage–inducible RNF8-dependent ubiquitylation allows its accumulation at damaged chromatin.
PMCID: PMC2867275  PMID: 20385748
17.  Human RAD18 Interacts with Ubiquitylated Chromatin Components and Facilitates RAD9 Recruitment to DNA Double Strand Breaks 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23155.
RAD18 is an ubiquitin ligase involved in replicative damage bypass and DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair processes. We found that RPA is required for the dynamic pattern of RAD18 localization during the cell cycle, and for accumulation of RAD18 at sites of γ-irradiation-induced DNA damage. In addition, RAD18 colocalizes with chromatin-associated conjugated ubiquitin and ubiquitylated H2A throughout the cell cycle and following irradiation. This localization pattern depends on the presence of an intact, ubiquitin-binding Zinc finger domain. Using a biochemical approach, we show that RAD18 directly binds to ubiquitylated H2A and several other unknown ubiquitylated chromatin components. This interaction also depends on the RAD18 Zinc finger, and increases upon the induction of DSBs by γ-irradiation. Intriguingly, RAD18 does not always colocalize with regions that show enhanced H2A ubiquitylation. In human female primary fibroblasts, where one of the two X chromosomes is inactivated to equalize X-chromosomal gene expression between male (XY) and female (XX) cells, this inactive X is enriched for ubiquitylated H2A, but only rarely accumulates RAD18. This indicates that the binding of RAD18 to ubiquitylated H2A is context-dependent. Regarding the functional relevance of RAD18 localization at DSBs, we found that RAD18 is required for recruitment of RAD9, one of the components of the 9-1-1 checkpoint complex, to these sites. Recruitment of RAD9 requires the functions of the RING and Zinc finger domains of RAD18. Together, our data indicate that association of RAD18 with DSBs through ubiquitylated H2A and other ubiquitylated chromatin components allows recruitment of RAD9, which may function directly in DSB repair, independent of downstream activation of the checkpoint kinases CHK1 and CHK2.
PMCID: PMC3157352  PMID: 21858012
18.  Rnf8 deficiency impairs class switch recombination, spermatogenesis, and genomic integrity and predisposes for cancer 
Signaling and repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are critical for preventing immunodeficiency and cancer. These DNA breaks result from exogenous and endogenous DNA insults but are also programmed to occur during physiological processes such as meiosis and immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) class switch recombination (CSR). Recent studies reported that the E3 ligase RNF8 plays important roles in propagating DNA DSB signals and thereby facilitating the recruitment of various DNA damage response proteins, such as 53BP1 and BRCA1, to sites of damage. Using mouse models for Rnf8 mutation, we report that Rnf8 deficiency leads to impaired spermatogenesis and increased sensitivity to ionizing radiation both in vitro and in vivo. We also demonstrate the existence of alternative Rnf8-independent mechanisms that respond to irradiation and accounts for the partial recruitment of 53bp1 to sites of DNA damage in activated Rnf8−/− B cells. Remarkably, IgH CSR is impaired in a gene dose-dependent manner in Rnf8 mutant mice, revealing that these mice are immunodeficient. In addition, Rnf8−/− mice exhibit increased genomic instability and elevated risks for tumorigenesis indicating that Rnf8 is a novel tumor suppressor. These data unravel the in vivo pleiotropic effects of Rnf8.
PMCID: PMC2867283  PMID: 20385750
19.  A small ubiquitin binding domain inhibits ubiquitin-dependent protein recruitment to DNA repair foci 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(24):3749-3758.
The rapid ubiquitination of chromatin surrounding DNA double-stranded breaks (DSB) drives the formation of large structures called ionizing radiation-induced foci (IRIF), comprising many DNA damage response (DDR) proteins. This process is regulated by RNF8 and RNF168 ubiquitin ligases and is thought to be necessary for DNA repair and activation of signaling pathways involved in regulating cell cycle checkpoints. Here we demonstrate that it is possible to interfere with ubiquitin-dependent recruitment of DDR factors by expressing proteins containing ubiquitin binding domains (UBDs) that bind to lysine 63-linked polyubiquitin chains. Expression of the E3 ubiquitin ligase RAD18 prevented chromatin spreading of 53BP1 at DSBs, and this phenomenon was dependent upon the integrity of the RAD18 UBD. An isolated RAD18 UBD interfered with 53BP1 chromatin spreading, as well as other important DDR mediators, including RAP80 and the BRCA1 tumor suppressor protein, consistent with the model that the RAD18 UBD is blocking access of proteins to ubiquitinated chromatin. Using the RAD18 UBD as a tool to impede localization of 53BP1 and BRCA1 to repair foci, we found that DDR signaling, DNA DSB repair, and radiosensitivity were unaffected. We did find that activated ATM (S1981P) and phosphorylated SMC1 (a specific target of ATM) were not detectable in DNA repair foci, in addition to upregulated homologous recombination repair, revealing 2 DDR responses that are dependent upon chromatin spreading of certain DDR factors at DSBs. These data demonstrate that select UBDs containing targeting motifs may be useful probes in determining the biological significance of protein–ubiquitin interactions.
PMCID: PMC3905067  PMID: 24107634
ubiquitin; RAD18; RAP80; BRCA1; ATM; DNA damage response; homologous recombination
20.  A polycomb group protein, PHF1, is involved in the response to DNA double-strand breaks in human cell 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(9):2939-2947.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) represent the most toxic DNA damage arisen from endogenous and exogenous genotoxic stresses and are known to be repaired by either homologous recombination or nonhomologous end-joining processes. Although many proteins have been identified to participate in either of the processes, the whole processes still remain elusive. Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are epigenetic chromatin modifiers involved in gene silencing, cancer development and the maintenance of embryonic and adult stem cells. By screening proteins responding to DNA damage using laser micro-irradiation, we found that PHF1, a human homolog of Drosophila polycomb-like, Pcl, protein, was recruited to DSBs immediately after irradiation and dissociated within 10 min. The accumulation at DSBs is Ku70/Ku80-dependent, and knockdown of PHF1 leads to X-ray sensitivity and increases the frequency of homologous recombination in HeLa cell. We found that PHF1 interacts physically with Ku70/Ku80, suggesting that PHF1 promotes nonhomologous end-joining processes. Furthermore, we found that PHF1 interacts with a number of proteins involved in DNA damage responses, RAD50, SMC1, DHX9 and p53, further suggesting that PHF1, besides the function in PcG, is involved in genome maintenance processes.
PMCID: PMC2396414  PMID: 18385154
21.  Role of Polycomb Group Proteins in the DNA Damage Response – A Reassessment 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102968.
A growing body of evidence suggests that Polycomb group (PcG) proteins, key regulators of lineage specific gene expression, also participate in the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) but evidence for direct recruitment of PcG proteins at specific breaks remains limited. Here we explore the association of Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) components with DSBs generated by inducible expression of the AsiSI restriction enzyme in normal human fibroblasts. Based on immunofluorescent staining, the co-localization of PRC1 proteins with components of the DNA damage response (DDR) in these primary cells is unconvincing. Moreover, using chromatin immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing (ChIP-seq), which detects PRC1 proteins at common sites throughout the genome, we did not find evidence for recruitment of PRC1 components to AsiSI-induced DSBs. In contrast, the S2056 phosphorylated form of DNA-PKcs and other DDR proteins were detected at a subset of AsiSI sites that are predominantly at the 5′ ends of transcriptionally active genes. Our data question the idea that PcG protein recruitment provides a link between DSB repairs and transcriptional repression.
PMCID: PMC4109945  PMID: 25057768
22.  Splicing controls the ubiquitin response during DNA double-strand break repair 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2016;23(10):1648-1657.
Although evidence that splicing regulates DNA repair is accumulating, the underlying mechanism(s) remain unclear. Here, we report that short-term inhibition of pre-mRNA splicing by spliceosomal inhibitors impairs cellular repair of DNA double-strand breaks. Indeed, interference with splicing as little as 1 h prior to irradiation reduced ubiquitylation of damaged chromatin and impaired recruitment of the repair factors WRAP53β, RNF168, 53BP1, BRCA1 and RAD51 to sites of DNA damage. Consequently, splicing-deficient cells exhibited significant numbers of residual γH2AX foci, as would be expected if DNA repair is defective. Furthermore, we show that this is due to downregulation of the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF8 and that re-introduction of this protein into splicing-deficient cells restores ubiquitylation at sites of DNA damage, accumulation of downstream factors and subsequent repair. Moreover, downregulation of RNF8 explains the defective repair associated with knockdown of various splicing factors in recent genome-wide siRNA screens and, significantly, overexpression of RNF8 counteracts this defect. These discoveries reveal a mechanism that may not only explain how splicing regulates repair of double-strand breaks, but also may underlie various diseases caused by deregulation of splicing factors, including cancer.
PMCID: PMC5041194  PMID: 27315300
23.  UBR2 of the N-End Rule Pathway Is Required for Chromosome Stability via Histone Ubiquitylation in Spermatocytes and Somatic Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37414.
The N-end rule pathway is a proteolytic system in which its recognition components (N-recognins) recognize destabilizing N-terminal residues of short-lived proteins as an essential element of specific degrons, called N-degrons. The RING E3 ligases UBR2 and UBR1 are major N-recognins that share size (200 kDa), conserved domains and substrate specificities to N-degrons. Despite the known function of the N-end rule pathway in degradation of cytosolic proteins, the major phenotype of UBR2-deficient male mice is infertility caused by arrest of spermatocytes at meiotic prophase I. UBR2-deficient spermatocytes are impaired in transcriptional silencing of sex chromosome-linked genes and ubiquitylation of histone H2A. In this study we show that the recruitment of UBR2 to meiotic chromosomes spatiotemporally correlates to the induction of chromatin-associated ubiquitylation, which is significantly impaired in UBR2-deficient spermatocytes. UBR2 functions as a scaffold E3 that promotes HR6B/UbcH2-dependent ubiquitylation of H2A and H2B but not H3 and H4, through a mechanism distinct from typical polyubiquitylation. The E3 activity of UBR2 in histone ubiquitylation is allosterically activated by dipeptides bearing destabilizing N-terminal residues. Insufficient monoubiquitylation and polyubiquitylation on UBR2-deficient meiotic chromosomes correlate to defects in double strand break (DSB) repair and other meiotic processes, resulting in pachytene arrest at stage IV and apoptosis. Some of these functions of UBR2 are observed in somatic cells, in which UBR2 is a chromatin-binding protein involved in chromatin-associated ubiquitylation upon DNA damage. UBR2-deficient somatic cells show an array of chromosomal abnormalities, including hyperproliferation, chromosome instability, and hypersensitivity to DNA damage-inducing reagents. UBR2-deficient mice enriched in C57 background die upon birth with defects in lung expansion and neural development. Thus, UBR2, known as the recognition component of a major cellular proteolytic system, is associated with chromatin and controls chromatin dynamics and gene expression in both germ cells and somatic cells.
PMCID: PMC3355131  PMID: 22616001
24.  RNF4-Dependent Hybrid SUMO-Ubiquitin Chains are Signals for RAP80 and thereby Mediate the Recruitment of BRCA1 to Sites of DNA Damage 
Science signaling  2012;5(253):ra88.
The DNA repair function of the breast cancer susceptibility protein BRCA1 depends in part on its interaction with RAP80, which targets BRCA1 to DNA double strand breaks (DSBs) through recognition of K63-linked polyubiquitin chains. The localization of BRCA1 to DSBs also requires sumoylation. Here, we demonstrated that, in addition to having ubiquitin-interacting motifs, RAP80 also contains a SUMO-interacting motif (SIM) that is critical for recruitment to DSBs. In combination with the ubiquitin-binding activity of RAP80, this SIM enabled RAP80 to bind with nanomolar affinity to hybrid chains consisting of ubiquitin conjugated to SUMO. Furthermore, RNF4, a SUMO-targeted ubiquitin E3 ligase that synthesizes hybrid SUMO-ubiquitin chains, localized to DSBs and was critical for the recruitment of RAP80 and BRCA1 to sites of DNA damage. Our findings, therefore, connect ubiquitin-dependent and SUMO-dependent DSB recognition, revealing that RNF4 synthesized hybrid SUMO-ubiquitin chains are recognized by RAP80 to promote BRCA1 recruitment and DNA repair.
PMCID: PMC4131685  PMID: 23211528
25.  Neddylation Promotes Ubiquitylation and Release of Ku from DNA-Damage Sites 
Cell Reports  2015;11(5):704-714.
The activities of many DNA-repair proteins are controlled through reversible covalent modification by ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like molecules. Nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) is the predominant DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair pathway in mammalian cells and is initiated by DSB ends being recognized by the Ku70/Ku80 (Ku) heterodimer. By using MLN4924, an anti-cancer drug in clinical trials that specifically inhibits conjugation of the ubiquitin-like protein, NEDD8, to target proteins, we demonstrate that NEDD8 accumulation at DNA-damage sites is a highly dynamic process. In addition, we show that depleting cells of the NEDD8 E2-conjugating enzyme, UBE2M, yields ionizing radiation hypersensitivity and reduced cell survival following NHEJ. Finally, we demonstrate that neddylation promotes Ku ubiquitylation after DNA damage and release of Ku and Ku-associated proteins from damage sites following repair. These studies provide insights into how the NHEJ core complex dissociates from repair sites and highlight its importance for cell survival following DSB induction.
Graphical Abstract
•NEDD8 accumulation at DNA-damage sites is a dynamic process•Depletion of the NEDD8 E2 UBE2M reduces cell survival following NHEJ•Neddylation promotes ubiquitylation of Ku following DNA damage•Neddylation promotes Ku release from damage sites following DNA repair
Double-strand break (DSB) repair is essential for genomic stability and is tightly regulated by modification of proteins with ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like molecules. Brown et al. show that, upon completion of repair, neddylation promotes release of the main DSB sensor Ku from damaged DNA, providing insight into a long-sought mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4431666  PMID: 25921528

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