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Genes Dev. 2001 Feb 15;15(4):428-43.

Targeting histone deacetylase complexes via KRAB-zinc finger proteins: the PHD and bromodomains of KAP-1 form a cooperative unit that recruits a novel isoform of the Mi-2alpha subunit of NuRD.

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  • 1The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Macromolecular complexes containing histone deacetylase and ATPase activities regulate chromatin dynamics and are vitally responsible for transcriptional gene silencing in eukaryotes. The mechanisms that target these assemblies to specific loci are not as well understood. We show that the corepressor KAP-1, via its PHD (plant homeodomain) and bromodomain, links the superfamily of Krüppel associated box (KRAB) zinc finger proteins (ZFP) to the NuRD complex. We demonstrate that the tandem PHD finger and bromodomain of KAP-1, an arrangement often found in cofactor proteins but functionally ill-defined, form a cooperative unit that is required for transcriptional repression. Substitution of highly related PHD fingers or bromodomains failed to restore repression activity, suggesting high specificity in their cooperative function. Moreover, single amino acid substitutions in either the bromodomain or PHD finger, including ones that mimic disease-causing mutations in the hATRX PHD finger, abolish repression. A search for effectors of this repression function yielded a novel isoform of the Mi-2alpha protein, an integral component of the NuRD complex. Endogenous KAP-1 is associated with Mi-2alpha and other components of NuRD, and KAP-1-mediated silencing requires association with NuRD and HDAC activity. These data suggest the KRAB-ZFP superfamily of repressors functions to target the histone deacetylase and chromatin remodeling activities of the NuRD complex to specific gene promoters in vivo.

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