MeCP2 is an abundant mammalian protein that binds to methylated CpG. We have found that native and recombinant MeCP2 repress transcription in vitro from methylated promoters but do not repress nonmethylated promoters. Repression is nonlinearly dependent on the local density of methylation, becoming significant at the density found in bulk vertebrate genomic DNA. Transient transfection using fusions with the GAL4 DNA binding domain identified a region of MeCP2 that is capable of long-range repression in vivo. Moreover, MeCP2 is able to displace histone H1 from preassembled chromatin that contains methyl-CpG. These properties, together with the abundance of MeCP2 and the high frequency of its 2 bp binding site, suggest a role as a global transcriptional repressor in vertebrate genomes.