Hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH) is a condition that prevents hemoglobin switching and the consequent silencing of the gamma globin genes, resulting in continued hemoglobin (Hb) F synthesis in adults. Two types of HPFH are responsible for this phenotype: deletional HPFH – deletions in the end of the beta globin locus – and non-deletional HPFH (ndHPFH) – single point mutations in the proximal promoter of both gamma globin genes. Sickle cell anemia patients or beta-thalassemia patients that present HPFH show high levels of HbF that are associated with less severe clinical course in these diseases. The development of new therapies based on the reactivation of gamma globin expression may be important for the treatment of these patients. The Brazilian ndHPFH type is characterized as a C→G substitution in the A gamma globin promoter at position –195 and the molecular mechanism responsible for the reactivation of this gene in the Brazilian ndHPFH type remains unclear. In contrast to the British ndHPFH type (-198), where the mechanism responsible for the increase of HbF levels is mediated by the raising in the affinity for the Sp1 transcription factor (TF), the Brazilian ndHPFH mutation does not affect Sp1 binding. Thus, other TF may be involved in the reactivation of the A gamma globin gene in the Brazilian ndHPFH type. The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanism involved in the reactivation or repression of the A gamma globin gene in the Brazilian ndHPFH type and identify possible TF responsible for this phenotype. In vitro primary human erythroblast cultures, derived from human CD34+ hematopoietic cells from 4 Brazilian ndHPFH type subjects and 4 control subjects, were proliferated and differentiated into late stage erythroblasts. The nuclear extracts from predominantly basophilic and polychromatic erythroblasts were used to profile TF activity using Protein-DNA Array method. The analysis of the array densitometry identified a number of TF whose DNA binding activities were either enhanced or repressed in the Brazilian ndHPFH cultures. Among the TF analyzed, the NF-E1/YY1 and the PAX-1 were selected for this study. Since this assay requires a secondary method to confirm these results, nuclear extracts were used to conduct chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA). ChIP was carried out using antibodies against NF-E1/YY1 and PAX-1 to quantify the binding to these TF to the –195 A gamma globin promoter region. EMSA was performed using probes with the same sequence spotted on the array membrane to analyze the activity of NF-E1/YY1 and PAX-1. Both methods confirmed and validated the previous array results. NF-E1/YY1 is a transcription factor that represses embryonic (epsilon) and fetal (gamma) globin genes. Protein-DNA array and EMSA showed a decreased binding of NF-E1/YY1 in Brazilian ndHPFH nuclear extracts and ChIP analysis revealed diminished NF-E1/YY1 occupancy at the –195 A gamma globin promoter region of Brazilian ndHPFH. The consensus binding site for NF-E1/YY1 is a CCAN motif that is observed between the –195 and –192 position in the A gamma globin promoter region. The C→G substitution at –195 position may disrupt this DNA binding site, cause decreased NF-E1/YY1 interaction and probably allows the binding of PAX-1, a transcriptional activator with a paired box DNA-binding domain that has as a DNA binding core motif, the sequence TTCCGC. This sequence, located between the –199 and –194 position in the A gamma globin promoter, is only presente in the Brazilian type of ndHPFH. Our protein-DNA array and EMSA results showed an increased binding of PAX-1 in the Brazilian ndHPFH nuclear extracts and quantitative ChIP analysis with anti-PAX-1 antibody showed that PAX-1 binds to the –195 A gamma globin promoter region only in the presence of this C→G substitution. These results suggest that the –195 site (C→G) in the A gamma globin promoter region may decrease NF-E1/YY1 binding and increase PAX-1 binding in this DNA region, probably resulting in the reactivation of the A gamma globin gene. The increase in the HbF levels in the Brazilian ndHPFH occurs differently from the British ndHPFH type and represents a novel mechanism of A gamma globin reactivation. Such findings may lead to the development of future therapeutic strategies for HbF induction in the treatment of other hemoglobinopathies.
Support by FAPESP and CNPq.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.