Epigenetic silencing through methyl-CpG (mCpG) is implicated in many biological patterns such as genome imprinting, X chromosome inactivation, and cancer development. In this process, the mCpG binding domain (MBD) proteins play an essential role in transmitting epigenetic information to downstream regulatory proteins. Among the five MBD proteins identified so far, MBD4 has been the only exception; it has long been thought to be a DNA repair protein. Herein we demonstrate that MBD4 has the ability to repress transcription through mCpG. Transcriptional repression by the MBD4 is histone deacetylase (HDAC) dependent, and MBD4 directly binds to Sin3A and HDAC1 at three central regions that overlap transcriptional repression domains. Furthermore, a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay clearly shows that MBD4 binds to hypermethylated promoters of the p16INK4a and hMLH1 genes. These results suggest that MBD4 is one of the essential components involved in epigenetic silencing in cancer and its repair activity is necessary for the maintenance of hypermethylated promoters.
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