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Nature. 1985 Jan 17-23;313(5999):235-8.

Haemoglobin switching in human embryos: asynchrony of zeta----alpha and epsilon----gamma-globin switches in primitive and definite erythropoietic lineage.


Haemoglobin switching in humans provides a unique model for investigating the mechanisms underlying expression of a developmentally regulated gene family. Numerous studies have focused on the switch from fetal to adult (that is, gamma----beta) globin, but little is known about the embryonic----fetal (that is, zeta----alpha and epsilon----gamma) switches, as well as the transition from 'primitive' yolk sac to 'definitive' liver erythropoiesis. Here we have studied the embryonic----fetal haemoglobin switches in yolk sac, liver and circulating blood erythroblasts from 25 embryos and 6 fetuses. Globin synthesis was also evaluated in purified 'primitive' and 'definitive' erythroblasts. Primitive erythroblasts synthesize essentially zeta and epsilon chains at 5 weeks and alpha- and epsilon-globin with a minor aliquot of zeta and gamma chains at 6-7 weeks, whereas definitive erythroblasts produce alpha and epsilon + gamma + beta-globin at 6 weeks but only alpha and gamma + beta chains from 8 weeks onward. In both lineages the zeta----alpha and the epsilon----gamma switches are asynchronous, the former preceding the latter. Furthermore, zeta- and beta-globin synthesis is restricted to primitive and definitive erythroblasts respectively. These findings are discussed in terms of a monoclonal model for haemoglobin switching in early human ontogeny.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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