DNA methylation is implicated in neuronal biology via the protein MeCP2, the mutation of which causes Rett syndrome. MeCP2 recruits the NCOR1/2 co-repressor complexes to methylated cytosine in the CG dinucleotide, but also to sites of non-CG methylation, which are abundant in neurons. To test the biological significance of the dual-binding specificity of MeCP2, we replaced its DNA binding domain with an orthologous domain from MBD2, which can only bind mCG motifs. Knockin mice expressing the domain-swap protein displayed severe Rett-syndrome-like phenotypes, indicating that normal brain function requires the interaction of MeCP2 with sites of non-CG methylation, specifically mCAC. The results support the notion that the delayed onset of Rett syndrome is due to the simultaneous post-natal accumulation of mCAC and its reader MeCP2. Intriguingly, genes dysregulated in both Mecp2 null and domain-swap mice are implicated in other neurological disorders, potentially highlighting targets of relevance to the Rett syndrome phenotype.
DNA methylation, MeCP2, Rett syndrome, epigenetic reader, mouse, neuronal maintenance, transcriptional regulation