DNA-damage response and repair activities at uncapped telomeres depend on RNF8

Nat Cell Biol. 2011 Aug 21;13(9):1139-45. doi: 10.1038/ncb2326.


Loss of telomere protection causes natural chromosome ends to become recognized by DNA-damage response and repair proteins. These events result in ligation of chromosome ends with dysfunctional telomeres, thereby causing chromosomal aberrations on cell division. The control of these potentially dangerous events at deprotected chromosome ends with their unique telomeric chromatin configuration is poorly understood. In particular, it is unknown to what extent bulky modification of telomeric chromatin is involved. Here we show that uncapped telomeres accumulate ubiquitylated histone H2A in a manner dependent on the E3 ligase RNF8. The ability of RNF8 to ubiquitylate telomeric chromatin is associated with its capacity to facilitate accumulation of both 53BP1 and phospho-ATM at uncapped telomeres and to promote non-homologous end-joining of deprotected chromosome ends. In line with the detrimental effect of RNF8 on uncapped telomeres, depletion of RNF8, as well as of the E3 ligase RNF168, reduces telomere-induced genome instability. This indicates that, besides suppressing tumorigenesis by mediating repair of DNA double-strand breaks, RNF8 and RNF168 might enhance cancer development by aggravating telomere-induced genome instability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Genomic Instability
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism*
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 2 / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor p53-Binding Protein 1
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitination


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Histones
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • RNF8 protein, human
  • TP53BP1 protein, human
  • Telomeric Repeat Binding Protein 2
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor p53-Binding Protein 1
  • RNF168 protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • ATM protein, human
  • Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins
  • Atm protein, mouse
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases