We have previously described a family of Northern Sardinian descent in which the propositus was affected by thalassemia major resulting from compound heterozygosity for codon 39 nonsense mutation and the beta +IVS II nt 745 mutation and in which all heterozygotes for the beta +IVS II nt 745 mutation had normal hemoglobin (Hb) A2 levels. To define the reasons for normal HbA2 levels in otherwise typical beta- thalassemia heterozygotes, we cloned and sequenced the delta- thalassemia gene in cis to the beta +IVS II nt 745 mutation. The sequence analysis showed a single nucleotide substitution (G----A) at position 69 nts (delta +69) downstream to the polyA addition site. Dot blot analysis with an oligonucleotide probe complementary to the delta +69 mutation detected this mutation in several heterozygotes for the beta +IVS II nt 745 mutation from the proband 's family, but failed to show it either in a group of normal individuals of the same origin or in nonrelated heterozygotes for the beta +IVS II nt 745 mutation of the same or different descent from the proband. The delta +69 (G----A) mutation may be responsible for the low delta-globin output from the beta +IVS II nt 745 chromosome or could be a silent polymorphism not affecting the function of the delta-globin gene. The normal G at position 69 is part of a sequence very similar to the core DNA (A/T)GATA(A/G) motif (GATA box) that is a binding site for the GATA-1 protein. Gel-retardation assay has shown that a DNA fragment containing the GATA motif with the G----A at position +69 has increased binding affinity for erythroid-specific DNA binding protein(s) as compared with the wild-type sequence. These findings may suggest that the delta +69 mutation is responsible for the deficient function of the in cis delta- globin gene.

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