The role of MeCP2 in the brain

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2011:27:631-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-092910-154121. Epub 2011 Jun 29.


Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) was first identified in 1992 as a protein that binds specifically to methylated DNA. Mutations in the MECP2 gene were later found to be the cause of an autism spectrum disorder, Rett syndrome. Despite almost 20 years of research into the molecular mechanisms of MeCP2 function, many questions are yet to be answered conclusively. This review considers several key questions and attempts to evaluate the current state of evidence. For example, is MeCP2 just a methyl-CpG binding protein? Is it a multifunctional protein or primarily a transcriptional repressor? We also consider whether MeCP2, as a chromosome-binding protein, acts at specific sites within the genome or more globally, and in which cell types it is functionally important. Finally, we consider two alternative views of MeCP2 in the brain: as a regulator of brain development or as a factor that helps maintain neuronal/glial function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation
  • Humans
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / chemistry
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / genetics
  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 / metabolism*
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2
  • Repressor Proteins