BackgroundMaintenance of genome integrity during DNA replication is crucial to the perpetuation of all organisms. In eukaryotes, the bypass of DNA lesions by the replication machinery prevents prolonged stalling of the replication fork, which could otherwise lead to greater damages such as gross chromosomal rearrangements. Bypassing DNA lesions and subsequent repair are accomplished by the activation of DNA damage tolerance pathways such as the template switching (TS) pathway. In yeast, the RAD5 (Radiation-sensitive 5) protein plays a crucial role in initiating the TS pathway by catalyzing the polyubiquitination of PCNA (Proliferation Cell Nuclear Antigen). Likewise, one of the mammalian RAD5-homologs, SHPRH (SNF2, histone linker, PHD, RING, helicase) mediates PCNA polyubiquitination. To date, the study of SHPRH enzymatic functions has been limited to this modification. It is therefore unclear how SHPRH carries out its function in DNA repair. Moreover, how this protein regulates gene transcription at the enzymatic level is also unknown.ResultsGiven that SHPRH harbors domains found in chromatin remodeling proteins, we investigated its biochemical properties in the presence of nucleosomal substrates. We find that SHPRH binds equally well to double-stranded (ds) DNA and to nucleosome core particles, however, like ISWI and CHD-family remodelers, SHPRH shows a strong preference for nucleosomes presenting extranucleosomal DNA. Moreover, nucleosomes but not dsDNA strongly stimulate the ATPase activity of SHPRH. Intriguingly, unlike typically observed with SNF2-family enzymes, ATPase activity does not translate into conventional nucleosome remodeling, under standard assay conditions. To test whether SHPRH can act as a ubiquitin E3 ligase for nucleosomes, we performed a screen using 26 E2-conjugating enzymes. We uncover that SHPRH is a potent nucleosome E3-ubiquitin-ligase that can function with at least 7 different E2s. Mass spectrometry analyses of products generated in the presence of the UBE2D1-conjugating enzyme reveal that SHPRH can catalyze the formation of polyubiquitin linkages that are either branched or associated with the recruitment of DNA repair factors, as well as linkages involved in proteasomal degradation.ConclusionsWe propose that, in addition to polyubiquitinating PCNA, SHPRH promotes DNA repair or transcriptional regulation in part through chromatin ubiquitination. Our study sets a biochemical framework for studying other RAD5- and RAD16-related protein functions through the ubiquitination of nucleosomes.