Embryonic cells transcriptionally repress the expression of endogenous and exogenous retroelements. Trim28, a key player in this silencing, is known to act in a large DNA-bound complex, but the other components of the complex are not fully characterized. Here, we show that the zinc finger protein Yin Yang 1 (YY1) is one such component. YY1 binds to the long terminal repeat (LTR) region of both exogenous and endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Deletion of the YY1-binding site from the retroviral genome leads to a major loss of silencing in embryonic cells and a coordinated loss of repressive histone marks from the proviral chromatin. Depletion of YY1 protein results in marked upregulation of expression of exogenous viruses and of selected ERVs. Finally, we report an embryonic cell-specific interaction between YY1 and Trim28. Our results suggest a major role for YY1 in the silencing of both exogenous retroviruses and ERVs in embryonic cells
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