Eukaryotic DNA damage tolerance and translesion synthesis through covalent modifications of PCNA

Cell Res. 2008 Jan;18(1):162-73. doi: 10.1038/cr.2007.114.


In addition to well-defined DNA repair pathways, all living organisms have evolved mechanisms to avoid cell death caused by replication fork collapse at a site where replication is blocked due to disruptive covalent modifications of DNA. The term DNA damage tolerance (DDT) has been employed loosely to include a collection of mechanisms by which cells survive replication-blocking lesions with or without associated genomic instability. Recent genetic analyses indicate that DDT in eukaryotes, from yeast to human, consists of two parallel pathways with one being error-free and another highly mutagenic. Interestingly, in budding yeast, these two pathways are mediated by sequential modifications of the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) by two ubiquitination complexes Rad6-Rad18 and Mms2-Ubc13-Rad5. Damage-induced monoubiquitination of PCNA by Rad6-Rad18 promotes translesion synthesis (TLS) with increased mutagenesis, while subsequent polyubiquitination of PCNA at the same K164 residue by Mms2-Ubc13-Rad5 promotes error-free lesion bypass. Data obtained from recent studies suggest that the above mechanisms are conserved in higher eukaryotes. In particular, mammals contain multiple specialized TLS polymerases. Defects in one of the TLS polymerases have been linked to genomic instability and cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Pair Mismatch / physiology*
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA Damage / physiology*
  • DNA Replication / physiology*
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / metabolism
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / physiology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Genomic Instability / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prokaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / metabolism*
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / physiology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • SUMO-1 Protein / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Ubiquitination


  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • SUMO-1 Protein
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase