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  1. In eukaryotes, the origin recognition complex (ORC) is required for the initiation of DNA replication. The smallest subunit of ORC, Orc6, is essential for prereplication complex (pre-RC) assembly and cell viability in yeast and for cytokinesis in metazoans. However, unlike other ORC components, the role of human Orc6 in replication remains to be resolved. Here, we identify an unexpected role for hOrc6, which is to promote S-phase progression after pre-RC assembly and DNA damage response. Orc6 localizes at the replication fork and is an accessory factor of the mismatch repair (MMR) complex. In response to oxidative damage during S phase, often repaired by MMR, Orc6 facilitates MMR complex assembly and activity, without which the checkpoint signaling is abrogated. Mechanistically, Orc6 directly binds to MutSα and enhances the chromatin-association of MutLα, thus enabling efficient MMR. Based on this, we conclude that hOrc6 plays a fundamental role in genome surveillance during S phase. 
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  2. BEN domain–containing proteins are emerging rapidly as an important class of factors involved in modulating gene expression, yet the molecular basis of how they regulate chromatin function and transcription remains to be established. BEND3 is a quadruple BEN domain–containing protein that associates with heterochromatin and functions as a transcriptional repressor. We find that BEND3 is highly expressed in pluripotent cells, and the induction of differentiation results in the down-regulation of BEND3. The removal of BEND3 from pluripotent cells results in cells exhibiting upregulation of the differentiation-inducing gene expression signature. We find that BEND3 binds to the promoters of differentiation-associated factors and key cell cycle regulators, including CDKN1A , encoding the cell cycle inhibitor p21, and represses the expression of differentiation-associated genes by enhancing H3K27me3 decoration at these promoters. Our results support a model in which transcription repression mediated by BEND3 is essential for normal development and to prevent differentiation. 
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  3. The BEN domain is a recently recognized DNA binding module that is present in diverse metazoans and certain viruses. Several BEN domain factors are known as transcriptional repressors, but, overall, relatively little is known of how BEN factors identify their targets in humans. In particular, X-ray structures of BEN domain:DNA complexes are only known for Drosophila factors bearing a single BEN domain, which lack direct vertebrate orthologs. Here, we characterize several mammalian BEN domain (BD) factors, including from two NACC family BTB-BEN proteins and from BEND3, which has four BDs. In vitro selection data revealed sequence-specific binding activities of isolated BEN domains from all of these factors. We conducted detailed functional, genomic, and structural studies of BEND3. We show that BD4 is a major determinant for in vivo association and repression of endogenous BEND3 targets. We obtained a high-resolution structure of BEND3-BD4 bound to its preferred binding site, which reveals how BEND3 identifies cognate DNA targets and shows differences with one of its non-DNA-binding BEN domains (BD1). Finally, comparison with our previous invertebrate BEN structures, along with additional structural predictions using AlphaFold2 and RoseTTAFold, reveal distinct strategies for target DNA recognition by different types of BEN domain proteins. Together, these studies expand the DNA recognition activities of BEN factors and provide structural insights into sequence-specific DNA binding by mammalian BEN proteins. 
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    Cell cycle is a cellular process that is subject to stringent control. In contrast to the wealth of knowledge of proteins controlling the cell cycle, very little is known about the molecular role of lncRNAs (long noncoding RNAs) in cell-cycle progression. By performing genome-wide transcriptome analyses in cell-cycle-synchronized cells, we observed cell-cycle phase-specific induction of >2000 lncRNAs. Further, we demonstrate that an S-phase-upregulated lncRNA, SUNO1 , facilitates cell-cycle progression by promoting YAP1-mediated gene expression. SUNO1 facilitates the cell-cycle-specific transcription of WTIP , a positive regulator of YAP1, by promoting the co-activator, DDX5-mediated stabilization of RNA polymerase II on chromatin. Finally, elevated SUNO1 levels are associated with poor cancer prognosis and tumorigenicity, implying its pro-survival role. Thus, we demonstrate the role of a S-phase up-regulated lncRNA in cell-cycle progression via modulating the expression of genes controlling cell proliferation. 
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  7. RING finger and WD repeat domain-containing protein 3 (RFWD3) is an E3 ligase known to facilitate homologous recombination by removing replication protein A (RPA) and RAD51 from DNA damage sites. Further, RPA-mediated recruitment of RFWD3 to stalled replication forks is essential for interstrand cross-link repair. Here, we report that in unperturbed human cells, RFWD3 localizes at replication forks and associates with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) via its PCNA-interacting protein (PIP) motif. PCNA association is critical for the stability of RFWD3 and for DNA replication. Cells lacking RFWD3 show slower fork progression, a prolonged S phase, and an increase in the loading of several replication-fork components on the chromatin. These findings all point to increased frequency of stalled forks in the absence of RFWD3. The S-phase defect is rescued by WT RFWD3, but not by the PIP mutant, suggesting that the interaction of RFWD3 with PCNA is critical for DNA replication. Finally, we observe reduced ubiquitination of RPA in cells lacking RFWD3. We conclude that the stabilization of RFWD3 by PCNA at the replication fork enables the polyubiquitination of RPA and its subsequent degradation for proper DNA replication.

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