Pax5 (BSAP) functions as both a transcriptional activator and repressor during midbrain patterning, B-cell development and lymphomagenesis. Here we demonstrate that Pax5 exerts its repression function by recruiting members of the Groucho corepressor family. In a yeast two-hybrid screen, the groucho-related gene product Grg4 was identified as a Pax5 partner protein. Both proteins interact cooperatively via two separate domains: the N-terminal Q and central SP regions of Grg4, and the octapeptide motif and C-terminal transactivation domain of Pax5. The phosphorylation state of Grg4 is altered in vivo upon Pax5 binding. Moreover, Grg4 efficiently represses the transcriptional activity of Pax5 in an octapeptide-dependent manner. Similar protein interactions resulting in transcriptional repression were also observed between distantly related members of both the Pax2/5/8 and Groucho protein families. In agreement with this evolutionary conservation, the octapeptide motif of Pax proteins functions as a Groucho-dependent repression domain in Drosophila embryos. These data indicate that Pax proteins can be converted from transcriptional activators to repressors through interaction with corepressors of the Groucho protein family.
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