The Drosophila esc and E(z) proteins are direct partners in polycomb group-mediated repression

Clark A. Jones, Joyce Ng, Aidan J. Peterson, Kelly Morgan, Jeffrey Simon, Richard S. Jones

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104 Scopus citations


The extra sex combs (esc) and Enhancer of zeste [E(z)] proteins are members of the Drosophila Polycomb group (Pc-G) of transcriptional repressors. Here we present evidence for direct physical interaction between the esc and E(z) proteins using yeast two-hybrid and in vitro binding assays. In addition, coimmunoprecipitation from embryo extracts demonstrates association of esc and E(z) in vivo. We have delimited the esc-binding domain of E(z) to an N-terminal 33-amino-acid region. Furthermore, we demonstrate that site-directed mutations in the esc protein previously shown to impair esc function in vivo disrupt esc-E(z) interactions in vitro. We also show an in vitro interaction between the heed and EZH1 proteins, which are human homologs of esc and E(z), respectively. These results suggest that the esc- E(z) molecular partnership has been conserved in evolution. Previous studies suggested that esc is primarily involved in the early stages of Pc-G-mediated silencing during embryogenesis. However, E(z) is continuously required in order to maintain chromosome binding by other Pc-G proteins. In light of these earlier observations and the molecular data presented here, we discuss how esc-E(z) protein complexes may contribute to transcriptional silencing by the Pc-G.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2825-2834
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1998


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