SUMO, a conserved ubiquitin-like protein, is conjugated to a multitude of cellular proteins to maintain genomic integrity and resist genotoxic stress. Studies of the SUMO E2 conjugating enzyme mutant, UBC9P123L, suggested that altered substrate specificity enhances cell sensitivity to DNA damaging agents. Using nuclear magnetic resonance chemical shift studies, we confirm that the mutation does not alter the core globular fold of UBC9, while 15N relaxation measurements demonstrate mutant-induced stabilization of distinct chemical states in residues near the active site cysteine and substrate recognition motifs. We further demonstrate that the P123L substitution induces a switch from the preferential addition of SUMO to lysine residues in unstructured sites to acceptor lysines embedded in secondary structures, thereby also inducing alterations in SUMO chain linkages. Our results provide new insights regarding the impact that structural dynamics of UBC9 have on substrate selection and specifically SUMO chain formation. These findings highlight the potential contribution of nonconsensus SUMO targets and/or alternative SUMO chain linkages on DNA damage response and chemotherapeutic sensitivity.