Like in most other areas of cellular metabolism, the functions of the ubiquitin-like modifier SUMO in the maintenance of genome stability are manifold and varied. Perturbations of global sumoylation causes a wide spectrum of phenotypes associated with defects in DNA maintenance, such as hypersensitivity to DNA-damaging agents, gross chromosomal rearrangements and loss of entire chromosomes. Consistent with these observations, many key factors involved in various DNA repair pathways have been identified as SUMO substrates. However, establishing a functional connection between a given SUMO target, the cognate SUMO ligase and a relevant phenotype has remained a challenge, mainly because of the difficulties involved in identifying important modification sites and downstream effectors that specifically recognize the target in its sumoylated state. This review will give an overview over the major pathways of DNA repair and genome maintenance influenced by the SUMO system and discuss selected examples of SUMO's actions in these pathways where the biological consequences of the modification have been elucidated.
Keywords: Base excision repair; Chromosome segregation; DNA repair; DNA replication; Genome stability; Homologous recombination; Poly-SUMO chains; SUMO; SUMO-targeted ubiquitin ligases; Telomeres.