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Mutat Res. 2008 Dec 1;647(1-2):39-43. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2008.07.007. Epub 2008 Jul 22.

The MBD protein family-reading an epigenetic mark?

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Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, National Institute of Environmental Health Science, Research Triangle Park, NC 27517, USA.


A family of proteins conserved throughout the eukaryotic lineage is characterized by the presence of a common sequence motif-the methyl-CpG-binding domain, or MBD. This sequence motif corresponds to a structural domain which, in some but not all cases, confers the ability to bind methylated cytosine residues in the context of the dinucleotide 5' CG 3'. Mammals have five well-characterized members of this family, each with unique biological characteristics. Recently, much progress has been made in defining the biochemical properties of one member of this family, MeCP2. This protein has a very high affinity for chromatin and considerable insight has been gained into its interactions with naked DNA and with chromatin fibers. Previous models have proposed that several members of the MBD family contribute to establishment and/or maintenance of transcriptional repression by recruiting enzymes that locally modify histones. Surprisingly, recent data indicate that MeCP2 is likely to contribute to chromatin properties through an architectural role, participating in higher order chromatin structures that facilitate both gene repression as well as gene activation. These observations suggest that existing models probably do not explain the entire gamut of biological functions performed by this very interesting protein family.

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