Normal eukaryotic cells do not enter mitosis unless DNA is fully replicated and repaired. Controls called ‘checkpoints’, mediate cell cycle arrest in response to unreplicated or damaged DNA. Two independent Schizosaccharomyces pombe mutant screens, both of which aimed to isolate new elements involved in checkpoint controls, have identified alleles of the hus5+ gene that are abnormally sensitive to both inhibitors of DNA synthesis and to ionizing radiation. We have cloned and sequenced the hus5+ gene. It is a novel member of the E2 family of ubiquitin conjugating enzymes (UBCs). To understand the role of hus5+ in cell cycle control we have characterized the phenotypes of the hus5 mutants and the hus5 gene disruption. We find that, whilst the mutants are sensitive to inhibitors of DNA synthesis and to irradiation, this is not due to an inability to undergo mitotic arrest. Thus, the hus5+ gene product is not directly involved in checkpoint control. However, in common with a large class of previously characterized checkpoint genes, it is required for efficient recovery from DNA damage or S-phase arrest and manifests a rapid death phenotype in combination with a temperature sensitive S phase and late S/G2 phase cdc mutants. In addition, hus5 deletion mutants are severely impaired in growth and exhibit high levels of abortive mitoses, suggesting a role for hus5+ in chromosome segregation. We conclude that this novel UBC enzyme plays multiple roles and is virtually essential for cell proliferation.

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