Genomic insults by endogenous or exogenous sources activate the DNA damage response (DDR). After the recognition of damaged DNA by specific factors, repair mechanisms process the lesions, and a surveillance mechanism, known as DNA damage checkpoint, is triggered by single-stranded (ss) DNA covered by RPA. UV light induces DNA lesions, mainly 6,4 photoproducts (6-4PP) and cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPD), which are removed by nucleotide excision repair (NER). Recent reports shed light onto the mechanism connecting NER and DDR after UV irradiation. How does UV-induced DNA damage activate checkpoint kinases? How is ssDNA generated at UV lesions? In yeast, UV lesions persisting during S phase represent a block for the advancing of replication forks, which temporarily stop and then reinitiate downstream of the damage, leaving a ssDNA region containing the lesion. Nonreplicating yeast and human cells with defects in NER are not able to properly activate the checkpoint cascade, indicating that processing of UV lesions is a prerequisite for checkpoint activation. This pathway also requires the function of exonuclease 1, which acts on NER intermediates generating long tracts of ssDNA. Here, we review the connections between NER processing of UV-induced lesions and checkpoint activation, discussing the role of recently identified players in this mechanism.
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