EAR motif-mediated transcriptional repression in plants: an underlying mechanism for epigenetic regulation of gene expression

Epigenetics. 2011 Feb;6(2):141-6. doi: 10.4161/epi.6.2.13627. Epub 2011 Feb 1.


Ethylene-responsive element binding factor-associated Amphiphilic Repression (EAR) motif-mediated transcriptional repression is emerging as one of the principal mechanisms of plant gene regulation. The EAR motif, defined by the consensus sequence patterns of either LxLxL or DLNxxP, is the most predominant form of transcriptional repression motif so far identified in plants. Additionally, this active repression motif is highly conserved in transcriptional regulators known to function as negative regulators in a broad range of developmental and physiological processes across evolutionarily diverse plant species. Recent discoveries of co-repressors interacting with EAR motifs, such as TOPLESS (TPL) and AtSAP18, have begun to unravel the mechanisms of EAR motif-mediated repression. The demonstration of genetic interaction between mutants of TPL and AtHDA19, co-complex formation between TPL-related 1 (TPR1) and AtHDA19, as well as direct physical interaction between AtSAP18 and AtHDA19 support a model where EAR repressors, via recruitment of chromatin remodeling factors, facilitate epigenetic regulation of gene expression. Here, we discuss the biological significance of EAR-mediated gene regulation in the broader context of plant biology and present literature evidence in support of a model for EAR motif-mediated repression via the recruitment and action of chromatin modifiers. Additionally, we discuss the possible influences of phosphorylation and ubiquitination on the function and turnover of EAR repressors.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Co-Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Co-Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Epigenomics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Co-Repressor Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • ethylene-responsive element binding protein