We have identified and molecularly characterized a novel deletion in the beta-globin gene cluster that is associated with elevated fetal hemoglobin in the adult. The propositus is a homozygote from the Yunnan province of China. The deletion spans about 90 kb of DNA and removes the A gamma, delta, and beta-globin genes. The 5' breakpoint of the deletion is located about 0.13 kb upstream from the A gamma-globin gene, whereas the 3' breakpoint is located about 66 kb downstream from the beta-globin gene, about 13 kb upstream from the breakpoint of the Chinese (A gamma delta beta)zero-thalassemia. Heterozygotes for this Yunnanese form of (A gamma delta beta)zero-thalassemia express between 9% and 17% of fetal hemoglobin, whereas the homozygote present with a mild anemia (Hb = 10.7 g/dl). Comparison of the sites of 3' breakpoints of the Yunnanese and the Chinese (A gamma delta beta)zero-thalassemia mutants is compatible with the hypothesis that an enhancer element is located between the 3' breakpoints of these two mutants. Juxta-position to the G gamma gene of this element may be responsible for the efficient gamma-gene expression in the Yunnanese mutant.

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