The Xenopus laevis APE2 (apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 2) nuclease participates in 3'-5' nucleolytic resection of oxidative DNA damage and activation of the ATR-Chk1 DNA damage response (DDR) pathway via ill-defined mechanisms. Here we report that APE2 resection activity is regulated by DNA interactions in its Zf-GRF domain, a region sharing high homology with DDR proteins Topoisomerase 3α (TOP3α) and NEIL3 (Nei-like DNA glycosylase 3), as well as transcription and RNA regulatory proteins, such as TTF2 (transcription termination factor 2), TFIIS, and RPB9. Biochemical and NMR results establish the nucleic acid-binding activity of the Zf-GRF domain. Moreover, an APE2 Zf-GRF X-ray structure and small-angle X-ray scattering analyses show that the Zf-GRF fold is typified by a crescent-shaped ssDNA binding claw that is flexibly appended to an APE2 endonuclease/exonuclease/phosphatase (EEP) catalytic core. Structure-guided Zf-GRF mutations impact APE2 DNA binding and 3'-5' exonuclease processing, and also prevent efficient APE2-dependent RPA recruitment to damaged chromatin and activation of the ATR-Chk1 DDR pathway in response to oxidative stress in Xenopus egg extracts. Collectively, our data unveil the APE2 Zf-GRF domain as a nucleic acid interaction module in the regulation of a key single-strand break resection function of APE2, and also reveal topologic similarity of the Zf-GRF to the zinc ribbon domains of TFIIS and RPB9.
Keywords: APE2; Xenopus laevis; Zf-GRF; crystallography; oxidative stress.