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Mol Cell Biol. 1990 Mar;10(3):1199-208.

Correlation between patterns of DNase I-hypersensitive sites and upstream promoter activity of the human epsilon-globin gene at different stages of erythroid development.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032.


DNA 5' to the human epsilon-globin gene exhibits unique patterns of DNase I-hypersensitive sites (DHS) in three human erythroleukemic cell lines which represent the embryonic (K562), fetal (HEL), and adult (KMOE) stages of erythroid development. We have mapped 10 epsilon-globin DHS in K562 cells, in which the epsilon-globin gene is maximally active. Major sites are located -11.7, -10.5, -6.5, -2.2 kilobase pairs (kbp) and -200 base pairs (bp) upstream of the gene and directly over the major cap site. Minor sites are located -5.5, -4.5, and -1.48 kbp and -900 bp upstream of the cap site. In HEL cells, in which the epsilon-globin gene is expressed at extremely low levels, the -11.7-, -10.5-, -5.5-, -4.5-, and -2.2-kbp DHS are no longer detectable; the -200-bp site is approximately 300-fold less sensitive to DNase I; and the -1.48-kbp, -900-bp, and major cap site DHS are 3- to 4-fold less sensitive. Only the DHS located -6.5 kbp relative to the major cap site is detectable at all three stages of erythroid development, including KMOE cells in which epsilon-globin synthesis is undetectable. We suggest that this site may be implicated in maintaining the entire beta-globin cluster in an active chromatin conformation. The five DHS downstream of the -6.5-kbp element possess associated promoters. Thus two distinct types of DHS exist--promoter positive and promoter negative. In HEL cells, all the upstream promoters are inactivated, although the -1.48-kbp and -900- and -200-bp DHS are still present. This suggests that the maintenance of DHS and regulation of their associated promoters occur by independent mechanisms. The inactivation of the upstream promoters in HEL cells while the major cap site remains active represents a unique pattern of expression and suggests that HEL cells possess regulatory factors which specifically down regulate the epsilon-globin upstream promoters.

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