Members of 7 large families, containing 20 patients with sickle cell anemia (SS) characterized by high levels of fetal hemoglobin (HbF), were studied using immunofluorescence to count F cells and a radioimmunoassay to measure small amounts of HbF. In five of these families, one of the sickle cell trait (AS) parents had a much higher HbF and F-cell count than the other; in one family, both parents had a marked increase in HbF and F cells; in the remaining family, HbF and F cells were at borderline values in both parents. Seven of 14 AS siblings, but only 1 of 8 normal hemoglobin (AA) siblings, also had HbF and F-cell counts above the “normal” range. It seems that a factor for increased F cells, linked to the beta S gene of one parent, is segregating in these families and is responsible for the greatly increased HbF and F cells in the SS subjects. HbF per F cell in AS parents and siblings was the same as that of normal AA subjects, whereas in the SS offspring it was greatly increased, suggesting that it was the result of marrow hyperplasia associated with their hemolytic anemia. The similarity of this “increased F-cell gene” to heterocellular hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH). Swiss type, is discussed, and it is suggested that it may control the persistent synthesis of HbF in sickle cell anemia by its presence in early infancy.

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