The transcriptional repressor, REST, helps restrict neuronal traits to neurons by blocking their expression in nonneuronal cells. To examine the repercussions of REST expression in neurons, we generated a neuronal cell line that expresses REST conditionally. REST expression inhibited differentiation by nerve growth factor, suppressing both sodium current and neurite growth. A novel corepressor complex, CoREST/HDAC2, was shown to be required for REST repression. In the presence of REST, the CoREST/HDAC2 complex occupied the native Nav1.2 sodium channel gene in chromatin. In neuronal cells that lack REST and express sodium channels, the corepressor complex was not present on the gene. Collectively, these studies define a novel HDAC complex that is recruited by the C-terminal repressor domain of REST to actively repress genes essential to the neuronal phenotype.
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