CpG methylation, the most common epigenetic modification of vertebrate genomes, is primarily associated with transcriptional repression. MeCP2, MBD1, MBD2, MBD3 and MBD4 constitute a family of vertebrate proteins that share the methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD). The MBD, consisting of about 70 residues, possesses a unique alpha/beta-sandwich structure with characteristic loops, and is able to bind single methylated CpG pairs as a monomer. All MBDs except MBD4, an endonuclease that forms a complex with the DNA mismatch-repair protein MLH1, form complexes with histone deacetylase. It has been established that MeCP2, MBD1 and MBD2 are involved in histone deacetylase-dependent repression and it is likely that this is also the case for MBD3. The current model proposes that MBD proteins are involved in recruiting histone deacetylases to methyl CpG-enriched regions in the genome to repress transcription. The lack of selectivity for MBD association with particular DNA sequences indicates that other mechanisms account for their recruitment to particular regions in the genome.