MeCP2 Represses the Rate of Transcriptional Initiation of Highly Methylated Long Genes

Lisa D. Boxer, William Renthal, Alexander W. Greben, Tess Whitwam, Andrew Silberfeld, Hume Stroud, Emmy Li, Marty G. Yang, Benyam Kinde, Eric C. Griffith, Boyan Bonev, Michael E. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Mutations in the methyl-DNA-binding repressor protein MeCP2 cause the devastating neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome. It has been challenging to understand how MeCP2 regulates transcription because MeCP2 binds broadly across the genome and MeCP2 mutations are associated with widespread small-magnitude changes in neuronal gene expression. We demonstrate here that MeCP2 represses nascent RNA transcription of highly methylated long genes in the brain through its interaction with the NCoR co-repressor complex. By measuring the rates of transcriptional initiation and elongation directly in the brain, we find that MeCP2 has no measurable effect on transcriptional elongation, but instead represses the rate at which Pol II initiates transcription of highly methylated long genes. These findings suggest a new model of MeCP2 function in which MeCP2 binds broadly across highly methylated regions of DNA, but acts at transcription start sites to attenuate transcriptional initiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-309.e9
JournalMolecular cell
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA methylation
  • MeCP2
  • NCoR
  • RNA Pol II
  • Rett syndrome
  • transcriptional elongation
  • transcriptional initiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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