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Mol Cell Biol. 2002 Jun;22(11):3820-31.

Conserved CTCF insulator elements flank the mouse and human beta-globin loci.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


A binding site for the transcription factor CTCF is responsible for enhancer-blocking activity in a variety of vertebrate insulators, including the insulators at the 5' and 3' chromatin boundaries of the chicken beta-globin locus. To date, no functional domain boundaries have been defined at mammalian beta-globin loci, which are embedded within arrays of functional olfactory receptor genes. In an attempt to define boundary elements that could separate these gene clusters, CTCF-binding sites were searched for at the most distal DNase I-hypersensitive sites (HSs) of the mouse and human beta-globin loci. Conserved CTCF sites were found at 5'HS5 and 3'HS1 of both loci. All of these sites could bind to CTCF in vitro. The sites also functioned as insulators in enhancer-blocking assays at levels correlating with CTCF-binding affinity, although enhancer-blocking activity was weak with the mouse 5'HS5 site. These results show that with respect to enhancer-blocking elements, the architecture of the mouse and human beta-globin loci is similar to that found previously for the chicken beta-globin locus. Unlike the chicken locus, the mouse and human beta-globin loci do not have nearby transitions in chromatin structure but the data suggest that 3'HS1 and 5'HS5 may function as insulators that prevent inappropriate interactions between beta-globin regulatory elements and those of neighboring domains or subdomains, many of which possess strong enhancers.

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