In recent years there has been intense investigation and rapid progress in our understanding of the cellular responses to various types of endogenous and exogenous DNA damage that ensure genetic stability. These studies have identified numerous roles for ubiquitylation, the post-translational modification of proteins with single ubiquitin or poly-ubiquitin chains. Initially discovered for its role in targeting proteins for degradation in the proteasome, ubiquitylation functions in a variety of regulatory roles to co-ordinate the recruitment and activity of a large number of protein complexes required for recovery from DNA damage. This includes the identification of essential DNA damage response genes that encode proteins directly involved in the ubiquitylation process itself, proteins that are targets for ubiquitylation, proteins that contain ubiquitin binding domains, as well as proteins involved in the de-ubiquitylation process. This review will focus on the regulatory functions of ubiquitylation in three distinct DNA damage responses that involve ubiquitin modification of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in DNA damage tolerance, the core histone H2A and its variant H2AX in double strand break repair (DSBR) and the Fanconi anaemia (FA) proteins FANCD2 and FANCI in cross link repair.
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