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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Oct 29;93(22):12267-71.

Silencing of human fetal globin expression is impaired in the absence of the adult beta-globin gene activator protein EKLF.

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Department of Hematology, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


Globin genes are subject to tissue-specific and developmental stage-specific regulation. A switch from human fetal (gamma)-to adult (beta)-globin expression occurs within erythroid precursor cells of the adult lineage. Previously we and others showed by targeted gene disruption that the zinc finger gene, erythroid Kr├╝ppel-like factor (EKLF), is required for expression of the beta-globin gene in mice, presumably through interaction with a high-affinity binding site in the proximal promoter. To examine the role of EKLF in the developmental regulation of the human gamma-globin gene we interbred EKLF heterozygotes (+/-) with mice harboring a human beta-globin yeast artificial chromosome transgene. We find that in the absence of EKLF, while human beta-globin expression is dramatically reduced, gamma-globin transcripts are elevated approximately 5-fold. Impaired silencing of gamma-globin expression identifies EKLF as the first transcription factor participating quantitatively in the gamma-globin to beta-globin switch. Our findings are compatible with a competitive model of switching in which EKLF mediates an adult stage-specific interaction between the beta-globin gene promoter and the locus control region that excludes the gamma-globin gene.

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