While DNA methyltransferase1 (DNMT1) is classically known for its functions as a maintenance methyltransferase enzyme, additional roles for DNMT1 in gene expression are not as clearly understood. Several groups have shown that deletion of the catalytic domain from DNMT1 does not abolish repressive activity of the protein against a reporter gene. In our studies, we examine the repressor function of catalytically inactive DNMT1 at endogenous genes. First, potential DNMT1 target genes were identified by searching for genes up-regulated in HCT116 colon cancer cells genetically disrupted for DNMT1 (DNMT1 -/- hypomorph cells). Next, the requirement for DNMT1 activity for repression of these genes was assessed by stably restoring expression of wild-type or catalytically inactive DNMT1. Both wild-type and mutant proteins are able to occupy the promoters and repress the expression of a set of target genes, and induce, at these promoters, both the depletion of active histone marks and the recruitment of a H3K4 demethylase, KDM1A/LSD1. Together, our findings show that there are genes for which DNMT1 acts as a transcriptional repressor independent from its methyltransferase function and that this repressive function may invoke a role for a scaffolding function of the protein at target genes.
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