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Establishment of neuronal identity requires co-ordinated expression of specific batteries of genes. These programs of gene expression are executed by activation of neuron-specific genes in neuronal cells and their repression in non-neuronal cells. Such co-ordinate regulation requires that individual activators and repressors regulate transcription from specific subsets of their potential target genes, yet we know little of the mechanisms that underlie this selective process. The RE-1 silencing transcription factor (REST) is a repressor that is proposed to silence transcription of numerous neuron-specific genes in non-neuronal cells via recruitment of two independent histone deacetylase (HDAC)-containing co-repressor complexes. However, in vivo, REST appears to be an obligate silencer for only a minority of RE-1-bearing genes. Here we examine the interaction of REST, Co-REST, Sin3A, HDAC1, and HDAC2 with two archetypical endogenous target genes, the M4 muscarinic receptor and the sodium type II channel (NaV1.2) genes. We find that these genes are present in distinct chromosomal domains. The NaV1.2 gene is actively transcribed but repressed by REST independently of histone deacetylation or DNA methylation and does not co-localize with epigenetic markers of silence, including dimethylation of H3K9 and HP1. In contrast, the M4 gene is maintained in a silent state independently of REST and co-localizes with dimethylated H3K9 and HP1alpha and HP1gamma, characteristic of silenced or senescent euchromatic DNA. This contrasts with the coordinate REST-dependent regulation of this locus reported previously. Taken together, we infer that distinct repressor complexes and mechanisms are operative at particular loci even in cell lines derived from a common embryological origin.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





556 - 561


Animals, Cell Line, DNA-Binding Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Gene Silencing, Genes, Reporter, Humans, NAV1.2 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Rats, Repressor Proteins, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Sodium Channels, Transcription Factors, Transfection