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EMBO J. 2002 Dec 16;21(24):6755-62.

Activation of the E3 ligase function of the BRCA1/BARD1 complex by polyubiquitin chains.

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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, UK.


Loss of the tumour suppressor BRCA1 results in profound chromosomal instability. The fundamental defect underlying this catastrophic phenotype is not yet known. In vivo, BRCA1 forms a heterodimeric complex with BARD1. Both proteins contain an N-terminal zinc RING-finger domain which confers E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. We have isolated full-length human BRCA1/BARD1 complex and have shown that it has a dual E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. First, it mediates the monoubiquitylation of nucleosome core histones in vitro, including the variant histone H2AX that co-localizes with BRCA1 at sites of DNA damage. Secondly, BRCA1/BARD1 catalyses the formation of multiple polyubiquitin chains on itself. Remarkably, this auto-polyubiquitylation potentiates the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of the BRCA1/BARD1 complex >20-fold. Even though BRCA1 has been reported to associate with a C-terminal ubiquitin hydrolase, BAP1, this enzyme does not appear to function in the deubiquitylation of the BRCA1/BARD1 complex.

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