The DNA damage response (DDR) is central to the cell survival and it requires post-translational modifications, in part, to sense the damage, amplify the signaling response and recruit and regulate DNA repair enzymes. Lysine methylation of histones such as H4K20 and non-histone proteins including p53 has been shown to be essential for the mounting of the DDR. It is well-known that the lysine methyltransferase SET7 regulates the DDR, as cells lacking this enzyme are hypersensitive to chemotherapeutic drugs. To define addition substrates of SET7 involved in the DDR, we screened a peptide array encompassing potential lysine methylation sites from >100 key DDR proteins and identified peptides from 58 proteins to be lysine methylated defining a methylation consensus sequence of [S>K-2; S>R-1; K0] consistent with previous findings. We focused on K377 methylation of the Flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1), a structure specific endonuclease with important functions in Okazaki fragment processing during DNA replication as a substrate of SET7. FEN1 was monomethylated by SET7 in vivo in a cell cycle dependent manner with levels increasing as cells progressed through S phase and decreasing as they exited S phase, as detected using K377me1 specific antibodies. Although K377me1 did not affect the enzymatic activity of FEN1, it was required for the cellular response to replicative stress by FEN1. These finding define FEN1 as a new substrate of SET7 required for the DDR.
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Departments of Oncology and Medicine, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.