Understanding the histone DNA repair code: H4K20me2 makes its mark

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Chromatin is a highly compact structure that must be rapidly rearranged in order for DNA repair proteins to access sites of damage and facilitate timely and efficient repair. Chromatin plasticity is achieved through multiple processes, including the posttranslational modification of histone tails. In recent years, the impact of histone posttranslational modification on the DNA damage response has become increasingly well recognized, and chromatin plasticity has been firmly linked to efficient DNA repair. One particularly important histone posttranslational modification process is methylation. Here, we focus on the regulation and function of H4K20 methylation (H4K20me) in the DNA damage response and describe the writers, erasers, and readers of this important chromatin mark as well as the combinatorial histone posttranslational modifications that modulate H4K20me recognition. Finally, we discuss the central role of H4K20me in determining if DNA double-strand breaks (DSB) are repaired by the error-prone, nonhomologous DNA end joining pathway or the error-free, homologous recombination pathway. This review article discusses the regulation and function of H4K20me2 in DNA DSB repair and outlines the components and modifications that modulate this important chromatin mark and its fundamental impact on DSB repair pathway choice.

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Molecular Cancer Research