Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) is a heritable human disorder characterized by defects in nucleotide excision repair (NER) and the development of skin cancer. Cells from XP group E (XP-E) patients have a defect in the UV-damaged DNA-binding protein complex (UV-DDB), involved in the damage recognition step of NER. UV-DDB comprises two subunits, products of the DDB1 and DDB2 genes, respectively. Mutations in the DDB2 gene account for the underlying defect in XP-E. The UV-DDB complex is a component of the newly identified cullin 4A-based ubiquitin E3 ligase, DDB1-CUL4A(DDB2). The E3 ubiquitin ligases recognize specific substrates and mediate their ubiquitination to regulate protein activity or target proteins for degradation by the proteasomal pathway. In this study, we have addressed the role of the UV-DDB-based E3 in NER and sought a physiological substrate. We demonstrate that monoubiquitinated histone H2A in native chromatin coimmunoprecipitates with the endogenous DDB1-CUL4A(DDB2) complex in response to UV irradiation. Further, mutations in DDB2 alter the formation and binding activity of the DDB1-CUL4A(DDB2) ligase, accompanied by impaired monoubiquitination of H2A after UV treatment of XP-E cells, compared with repair-proficient cells. This finding indicates that DDB2, as the substrate receptor of the DDB1-CUL4A-based ligase, specifically targets histone H2A for monoubiquitination in a photolesion-binding-dependent manner. Given that the loss of monoubiquitinated histone H2A at the sites of UV-damaged DNA is associated with decreased global genome repair in XP-E cells, this study suggests that histone modification, mediated by the XPE factor, facilitates the initiation of NER.
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