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Nature. 1986 Feb 20-26;319(6055):685-9.

An embryonic pattern of expression of a human fetal globin gene in transgenic mice.


During the evolution of the beta-globin family gene in vertebrates, different globin genes acquired different developmental patterns of expression. In mammals, specific 'embryonic' beta-like globins are synthesized in the earliest erythroid cells, which differentiate in the yolk sac of the embryo. In most mammals the embryonic globin chains are replaced by 'adult' beta-globins in fetal and adult erythrocytes, which arise in the liver and bone marrow, respectively. However, in simian primates (including humans), a distinct 'fetal' type of beta-like globin chain predominates in fetal erythroid cells. Based on the pattern of DNA sequence homologies between different mammalian species, these fetal globin genes, G gamma and A gamma, are thought to have descended from an ancestral gene, 'proto-gamma', which was embryonic in its pattern of expression. In the mouse, as well as in most other mammalian species, the descendants of the proto-gamma gene continue to function as embryonic genes. To investigate the evolutionary changes that led to the 'fetal recruitment' of the gamma-globin genes in primates, we have introduced the cloned human G gamma-globin gene into the mouse germ line. We report here that the human G gamma gene reverts to an embryonic pattern of expression in the developing mouse. This observation suggests that during evolution a shift occurred in the timing of expression of a trans-acting signal controlling the proto-gamma gene.

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