Modification by SUMOs (small ubiquitin-related modifiers) is largely transient and considered to alter protein function through altered protein–protein interactions. These modifications are significant regulators of the response to DNA damage in eukaryotic model organisms and SUMOylation affects a large number of proteins in mammalian cells, including several proteins involved in the response to genomic lesions [Golebiowski, Matic, Tatham, Cole, Yin, Nakamura, Cox, Barton, Mann and Hay (2009) Sci. Signaling 2, ra24]. Furthermore, recent work [Morris, Boutell, Keppler, Densham, Weekes, Alamshah, Butler, Galanty, Pangon, Kiuchi, Ng and Solomon (2009) Nature 462, 886–890; Galanty, Belotserkovskaya, Coates, Polo, Miller and Jackson (2009) Nature 462, 935–939] has revealed the involvement of the SUMO cascade in the BRCA1 (breast-cancer susceptibility gene 1) pathway response after DNA damage. The present review examines roles described for the SUMO pathway in the way mammalian cells respond to genotoxic stress.

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