The attachment of the SUMO modifier to proteins controls cellular signaling pathways through noncovalent binding to SUMO-interaction motifs (SIMs). Canonical SIMs contain a core of hydrophobic residues that bind to a hydrophobic pocket on SUMO. Negatively charged residues of SIMs frequently contribute to binding by interacting with a basic surface on SUMO. Here we define acetylation within this basic interface as a central mechanism for the control of SUMO-mediated interactions. The acetyl-mediated neutralization of basic charges on SUMO prevents binding to SIMs in PML, Daxx, and PIAS family members but does not affect the interaction between RanBP2 and SUMO. Acetylation is controlled by HDACs and attenuates SUMO- and PIAS-mediated gene silencing. Moreover, it affects the assembly of PML nuclear bodies and restrains the recruitment of the corepressor Daxx to these structures. This acetyl-dependent switch thus expands the regulatory repertoire of SUMO signaling and determines the selectivity and dynamics of SUMO-SIM interactions.
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