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Keywords:

  • co-repressor;
  • HDAC1;
  • histone deacetylase;
  • MEF-2;
  • mHDA1

The MEF-2 proteins are a family of transcriptional activators that have been detected in a wide variety of cell types. In skeletal muscle cells, MEF-2 proteins interact with members of the MyoD family of transcriptional activators to synergistically activate gene expression. Similar interactions with tissue or lineage-specific cofactors may also underlie MEF-2 function in other cell types. In order to screen for such cofactors, we have used a transcriptionally inactive mutant of Xenopus MEF2D in a yeast two-hybrid screen. This approach has identified a novel protein expressed in the early embryo that binds to XMEF2D and XMEF2A. The MEF-2 interacting transcription repressor (MITR) protein binds to the N-terminal MADS/MEF-2 region of the MEF-2 proteins but does not bind to the related Xenopus MADS protein serum response factor. In the early embryo, MITR expression commences at the neurula stage within the mature somites and is subsequently restricted to the myotomal muscle. In functional assays, MITR negatively regulates MEF-2-dependent transcription and we show that this repression is mediated by direct binding of MITR to the histone deacetylase HDAC1. Thus, we propose that MITR acts as a co-repressor, recruiting a specific deacetylase to downregulate MEF-2 activity.