The E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC13 plays pivotal roles in diverse biological processes. Recent studies have elucidated that UBC13, in concert with the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF8, propagates the DNA damage signal via a ubiquitylation-dependent signaling pathway. However, mechanistically how UBC13 mediates its role in promoting checkpoint protein assembly and its genetic requirement for E2 variants remain elusive. Here we provide evidence to support the idea that the E3 ubiquitin ligase complex RNF8-UBC13 functions independently of E2 variants and is sufficient in facilitating ubiquitin conjugations and accumulation of DNA damage mediator 53BP1 at DNA breaks. The RNF8 RING domain serves as the molecular platform to anchor UBC13 at the damaged chromatin, where localized ubiquitylation events allow sustained accumulation of checkpoint proteins. Intriguingly, we found that only a group of RING domains derived from E3 ubiquitin ligases, which have been shown to interact with UBC13, enabled UBC13-mediated FK2 and 53BP1 focus formation at DNA breaks. We propose that the RNF8 RING domain selects and loads a subset of UBC13 molecules, distinct from those that exist as heterodimers, onto sites of double-strand breaks, which facilitates the amplification of DNA damage signals.
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