Ubiquitination of PCNA and Its Essential Role in Eukaryotic Translesion Synthesis
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Ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like proteins (Ubls) are now at the center stage of molecular and cell biology because of their diverse functions in many fundamentally important cellular processes. Besides the celebrated role of ubiquitin in the 26S proteasome-mediated protein degradation pathway, the non-proteolytic functions of ubiquitin are being uncovered at a fast pace. The prominent examples include membrane trafficking, innate immunity, kinase signaling, chromatin dynamics and DNA damage response. Researchers in the area of DNA damage response have witnessed rapid progress within the past decade, largely stimulated by the seminal findings that ubiquitination and SUMOylation of a key DNA replication/repair protein, proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), controls precisely how eukaryotic cells respond to different types of DNA damage, and how cellular DNA damage repair or tolerance pathways are selected to cope with damage in the DNA genome. Here, we will review the recent findings on translesion synthesis (TLS) and its regulation by PCNA ubiquitination in eukaryotes. We will discuss two prevalent models, i.e., the postreplicative gap-filling and the polymerase switch, which have been invoked to account for eukaryotic cells’ ability to overcome DNA damage associated replication blockade through TLS. Results from both in vitro reconstitution and from genetic systems will be discussed. We will also summarize the recent findings revealing the crosstalk between two major human DNA damage response pathways (the TLS and the Fanconi anemia pathways), and the ATR and ATM-independent regulation of PCNA ubiquitination. Lastly, new methods of preparing ubiquitinated PCNA will be reviewed. The availability of milligram levels of ubiquitinated PCNA will help our understanding of the molecular details in eukaryotic TLS.