Posttranslational modification of PCNA by ubiquitin plays an important role in coordinating the processes of DNA damage tolerance during DNA replication. The monoubiquitination of PCNA was shown to facilitate the switch between the replicative DNA polymerase with the low-fidelity polymerase eta (η) to bypass UV-induced DNA lesions during replication. Here, we show that in response to oxidative stress, PCNA becomes transiently monoubiquitinated in an S phase- and USP1-independent manner. Moreover, Polη interacts with mUb-PCNA at sites of oxidative DNA damage via its PCNA-binding and ubiquitin-binding motifs. Strikingly, while functional base excision repair is not required for this modification of PCNA or Polη recruitment to chromatin, the presence of hMsh2-hMsh6 is indispensable. Our findings highlight an alternative pathway in response to oxidative DNA damage that may coordinate the removal of oxidatively induced clustered DNA lesions and could explain the high levels of oxidized DNA lesions in MSH2-deficient cells.
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