Ferritin heavy chain (FH), an embryonically-expressed protein in the erythroid lineage, localizes to the nucleus and represses the human adult β-globin promoter in transient expression assays (

Broyles et al.,
). Recently, we have performed chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays with cross-linked chromatin of K562 cells in which the β-globin gene is repressed, using anti-FH polyclonal antisera. These results strongly indicate that FH occupies the repression site (a CAGTGC motif) in vivo. Binding to this -150 site has been previously demonstrated to be required for β-promoter repression in co-transfections. EMSA assays (competitive gel shifts) have revealed that the mouse βMajor-globin promoter has an analogous CAGTGN motif at -160 bp from the cap site that competes specifically with the human CAGTGC site for FH binding. The mouse βMinor-globin promoter lacks the -150/-160 CAGTGN motif and, therefore, the FH binding site. Thus, a human FH transgenic mouse, in which the FH gene is driven by a truncated β-promoter lacking the CAGTGN motif, should express human FH in definitive erythroid cells where the FH would be predicted to repress βMajor-globin but not βMinor-globin. Such a mouse would be predicted to survive but be born with a mild β-thalassemia due to the decreased βMajorMinor ratio in its definitive erythroid cells. Preliminary results from the litters of F1 generation FH-tg mice indicate that such is indeed the case, i.e., that human FH functions as a βMajor-globin repressor in vivo.

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