ABSTRACT In the last 5 years, many co-repressors have been identified in eukaryotes that function in a wide range of species, from yeast to Drosophila and humans. Co-repressors are coregulators that are recruited by DNA-bound transcriptional silencers and play essential roles in many pathways including differentiation, proliferation, programmed cell death, and cell cycle. Accordingly, it has been shown that aberrant interactions of co-repressors with transcriptional silencers provide the molecular basis of a variety of human diseases. Co-repressors mediate transcriptional silencing by mechanisms that include direct inhibition of the basal transcription machinery and recruitment of chromatin-modifying enzymes. Chromatin modification includes histone deacetylation, which is thought to lead to a compact chromatin structure to which the accessibility of transcriptional activators is impaired. In a general mechanistic view, the overall picture suggests that transcriptional silencers and co-repressors act in analogy to transcriptional activators and coactivators, but with the opposite effect leading to gene silencing. We provide a comprehensive overview of the currently known higher eukaryotic co-repressors, their mechanism of action, and their involvement in biological and pathophysiological pathways. We also show the different pathways that lead to the regulation of corepressor–silencer complex formation.—Burke
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