DNA methylation patterns regulate gene expression programs and are maintained through a highly coordinated process orchestrated by the RING E3 ubiquitin ligase UHRF1. UHRF1 controls DNA methylation inheritance by reading epigenetic modifications to histones and DNA to activate histone H3 ubiquitylation. Here, we find that all five domains of UHRF1, including the previously uncharacterized ubiquitin-like domain (UBL), cooperate for hemi-methylated DNA-dependent H3 ubiquitin ligation. Our structural and biochemical studies, including mutations found in cancer genomes, reveal a bifunctional requirement for the UBL in histone modification: (1) the UBL makes an essential interaction with the backside of the E2 and (2) the UBL coordinates with other UHRF1 domains that recognize epigenetic marks on DNA and histone H3 to direct ubiquitin to H3. Finally, we show UBLs from other E3s also have a conserved interaction with the E2, Ube2D, highlighting a potential prevalence of interactions between UBLs and E2s.
Keywords: DNA methylation; RING; RING E3 ligase; SRA; UBL; UHRF1; epigenetics; hemi-methylated DNA; histone H3 ubiquitylation; ubiquitin; ubiquitin-like domain.
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