Scc1 sumoylation by Mms21 promotes sister chromatid recombination through counteracting Wapl.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) fuel cancer-driving chromosome translocations. Two related structural maintenance of chromosomes (Smc) complexes, cohesin and Smc5/6, promote DSB repair through sister chromatid homologous recombination (SCR). Here we show that the Smc5/6 subunit Mms21 sumoylates multiple lysines of the cohesin subunit Scc1. Mms21 promotes cohesin-dependent small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) accumulation at laser-induced DNA damage sites in S/G2 human cells. Cells expressing the nonsumoylatable Scc1 mutant (15KR) maintain sister chromatid cohesion during mitosis but are defective in SCR and sensitive to ionizing radiation (IR). Scc1 15KR is recruited to DNA damage sites. Depletion of Wapl, a negative cohesin regulator, rescues SCR defects of Mms21-deficient or Scc1 15KR-expressing cells. Expression of the acetylation-mimicking Smc3 mutant does not bypass the requirement for Mms21 in SCR. We propose that Scc1 sumoylation by Mms21 promotes SCR by antagonizing Wapl at a step after cohesin loading at DSBs and in a way not solely dependent on Smc3 acetylation.