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FEBS Lett. 2011 Sep 16;585(18):2795-802. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2011.07.034. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

RNF20-RNF40: A ubiquitin-driven link between gene expression and the DNA damage response.

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  • 1The David and Inez Myers Laboratory for Cancer Genetics, Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel. yossih@post.tau.ac.il


The DNA damage response (DDR) is emerging as a vast signaling network that temporarily modulates numerous aspects of cellular metabolism in the face of DNA lesions, especially critical ones such as the double strand break (DSB). The DDR involves extensive dynamics of protein post-translational modifications, most notably phosphorylation and ubiquitylation. The DSB response is mobilized primarily by the ATM protein kinase, which phosphorylates a plethora of key players in its various branches. It is based on a core of proteins dedicated to the damage response, and a cadre of proteins borrowed temporarily from other cellular processes to help meet the challenge. A recently identified novel component of the DDR pathway - histone H2B monoubiquitylation - exemplifies this principle. In mammalian cells, H2B monoubiquitylation is driven primarily by an E3 ubiquitin ligase composed of the two RING finger proteins RNF20 and RNF40. Generation of monoubiquitylated histone H2B (H2Bub) has been known to be coupled to gene transcription, presumably modulating chromatin decondensation at transcribed regions. New evidence indicates that the regulatory function of H2Bub on gene expression can selectively enhance or suppress the expression of distinct subsets of genes through a mechanism involving the hPAF1 complex and the TFIIS protein. This delicate regulatory process specifically affects genes that control cell growth and genome stability, and places RNF20 and RNF40 in the realm of tumor suppressor proteins. In parallel, it was found that following DSB induction, the H2B monoubiquitylation module is recruited to damage sites where it induces local H2Bub, which in turn is required for timely recruitment of DSB repair protein and, subsequently, timely DSB repair. This pathway represents a crossroads of the DDR and chromatin organization, and is a typical example of how the DDR calls to action functional modules that in unprovoked cells regulate other processes.

Copyright © 2011 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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