The Dnmt3a DNA methyltransferase is essential for mammalian development and is responsible for the generation of genomic methylation patterns, which lead to transcriptional silencing. Here, we show that Dnmt3a associates with RP58, a DNA-binding transcriptional repressor protein found at transcriptionally silent heterochromatin. Dnmt3a acts as a co-repressor for RP58 in a manner that does not require its de novo methyltransferase activity. Like other characterized co-repressors, Dnmt3a associates with the histone deacetylase HDAC1 using its ATRX-homology domain. This domain of Dnmt3a represents an independent transcriptional repressor domain whose silencing functions require HDAC activity. These results identify Dnmt3a as a co-repressor protein carrying deacetylase activity and show that Dnmt3a can be targeted to specific regulatory foci via its association with DNA-binding transcription factors.
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