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Mol Cell Biol. Mar 1990; 10(3): 1209–1216.
PMCID: PMC360999

Negative regulation of the human epsilon-globin gene by transcriptional interference: role of an Alu repetitive element.


The human epsilon-globin gene has a number of alternative transcription initiation sites which correspond with regions of DNase I hypersensitivity upstream of the canonical cap site. Transcripts originating from the promoters located -4.3/-4.5 and -1.48 kilobase pairs (kbp) and -900 and -200 base pairs (bp) upstream of the major epsilon-globin cap site can, at certain stages of erythroid differentiation, extend through the gene and are polyadenylated. The 350-bp PolIII transcripts, originating within the Alu repetitive element -2.2 kbp upstream of the cap site, extend in the opposite direction from the gene, are nonpolyadenylated, nucleus confined, and are detectable only in mature K562 cells or mature embryonic red blood cells where the epsilon-globin major cap site is maximally transcribed. Fragments containing the promoters located between -4.5 and -4.3 kbp upstream of the gene down regulate transcription from the epsilon-globin gene 20- to 30-fold in a transient expression assay in which both erythroid and nonerythroid cell lines were used. This occurs only when the direction of transcription from the -4.3/-4.5-kbp promoters is towards the gene, and we hypothesize that down regulation is caused by transcriptional interference. Fragments containing the Alu repetitive element -2.2 kbp upstream of the gene can overcome down regulation of the epsilon-globin gene by the -4.5-kbp element when interposed in the direct orientation between this element and the epsilon-globin gene.

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Selected References

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