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Plant J. 2002 Jul;31(1):25-36.

A WD40-repeat containing protein, similar to a fungal co-repressor, is required for transcriptional gene silencing in Chlamydomonas.

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School of Biological Sciences and Plant Science Initiative, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, E211 Beadle Center, Post Office Box 880666, Lincoln, NE 68588-0666, USA.


In higher plants, mammals, and filamentous fungi, transcriptional gene silencing is frequently associated with DNA methylation. However, recent evidence suggests that certain transgenes can be inactivated by a methylation independent mechanism. In the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, single-copy transgenes are transcriptionally silenced without discernible cytosine methylation of the introduced DNA. We have isolated a Chlamydomonas gene, Mut11, which is required for the transcriptional repression of single-copy transgenes. Mut11 appears to have a global role in gene regulation since it also affects transposon mobilization, cellular growth, and sensitivity to DNA damaging agents. In transient expression assays, a fusion protein between the predicted Mut11 gene product (Mut11p) and E. coli beta-glucuronidase localizes predominantly to the nucleus. Mut11p, a polypeptide of 370 amino acids containing seven WD40 repeats, is highly homologous to proteins of unknown function that are widely distributed among eukaryotes. Mut11p also shows similarity to the C-terminal domain of TUP1, a global transcriptional co-repressor in fungi. Based on these findings we speculate that, in Chlamydomonas, the silencing of certain single-copy transgenes and dispersed transposons integrated into euchromatic regions may occur by a mechanism(s) similar to those involving global transcriptional repressors. Our results also support the existence, in methylation-competent organisms, of a mechanism(s) of transcriptional (trans)gene silencing that is independent of DNA methylation.

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