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Nature. 1991 Mar 21;350(6315):252-4.

Human gamma-globin genes silenced independently of other genes in the beta-globin locus.

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National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, UK.


Erythropoiesis during human development is characterized by switches in expression of beta-like globin genes during the transition from the embryonic through fetal to adult stages. Activation and high-level expression of the genes is directed by the locus control region (LCR), located 5' to the epsilon gene. The location of the LCR and its role in directing high-level expression of the globin genes has led to the suggestion that competition from the beta gene for interaction with the LCR has a major role in silencing the fetal gamma genes during adult life. We have now constructed lines of transgenic mice containing the human A gamma globin gene linked to the LCR. We observe high-level expression of the transgene in the embryonic stages but silencing of the gene in adult animals. We conclude that the gamma gene is not deregulated by the presence of the LCR and that competition from the beta gene is not required for silencing of the gamma genes in adult life. The silencing is therefore likely to be mediated by stage-specific factors binding to sequences immediately flanking the genes.

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