• homeodomain;
  • Meis;
  • Pbx;
  • repression;
  • transcription

Myeloid ecotropic insertion site (Meis)2 is a homeodomain protein containing a conserved homothorax (Hth) domain that is present in all Meis and Prep family proteins and in the Drosophila Hth protein. The Hth domain mediates interaction with Pbx homeodomain proteins, allowing for efficient DNA binding. Here we show that, like Meis1, Meis2 has a strong C-terminal transcriptional activation domain, which is required for full activation of transcription by homeodomain protein complexes composed of Meis2 and Pbx1. We also show that the activity of the activation domain is inhibited by the Hth domain, and that this autoinhibition can be partially relieved by the interaction of Pbx1 with the Hth domain of Meis2. Targeting of the Hth domain to DNA suggests that it is not a portable trans-acting repression domain. However, the Hth domain can inhibit a linked activation domain, and this inhibition is not limited to the Meis2 activation domain. Database searching reveals that the Meis3.2 splice variant, which is found in several vertebrate species, disrupts the Hth domain by removing 17 codons from the 5′-end of exon 6. We show that the equivalent deletion in Meis2 derepresses the C-terminal activation domain and weakens interaction with Pbx1. This work suggests that the transcriptional activity of all members of the Meis/Prep Hth protein family is subject to autoinhibition by their Hth domains, and that the Meis3.2 splice variant encodes a protein that bypasses this autoinhibitory effect.

Structured digital abstract