The LIN-1 ETS transcription factor inhibits vulval cell fates during Caenorhabditis elegans development. We demonstrate that LIN-1 interacts with UBC-9, a small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) conjugating enzyme. This interaction is mediated by two consensus sumoylation motifs in LIN-1. Biochemical studies showed that LIN-1 is covalently modified by SUMO-1. ubc-9 and smo-1, the gene encoding SUMO-1, inhibit vulval cell fates and function at the level of lin-1, indicating that sumoylation promotes LIN-1 inhibition of valval cell fates. Sumoylation of LIN-1 promoted transcriptional repression and mediated an interaction with MEP-1, a protein previously shown to associate with the nucleosome remodeling and histone deacetylation (NuRD) transcriptional repression complex. Genetic studies showed that mep-1 inhibits vulval cell fates and functions at the level of lin-1. We propose that sumoylation of LIN-1 mediates an interaction with MEP-1 that contributes to transcriptional repression of genes that promote vulval cell fates. These studies identify a molecular mechanism for SUMO-mediated transcriptional repression.
- Vulval development