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Individual variation in fetal hemoglobin (HbF, alpha(2)gamma(2)) response underlies the remarkable diversity in phenotypic severity of sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. HbF levels and HbF-associated quantitative traits (e.g., F cell levels) are highly heritable. We have previously mapped a major quantitative trait locus (QTL) controlling F cell levels in an extended Asian-Indian kindred with beta thalassemia to a 1.5-Mb interval on chromosome 6q23, but the causative gene(s) are not known. The QTL encompasses several genes including HBS1L, a member of the GTP-binding protein family that is expressed in erythroid progenitor cells. In this high-resolution association study, we have identified multiple genetic variants within and 5' to HBS1L at 6q23 that are strongly associated with F cell levels in families of Northern European ancestry (P = 10(-75)). The region accounts for 17.6% of the F cell variance in northern Europeans. Although mRNA levels of HBS1L and MYB in erythroid precursors grown in vitro are positively correlated, only HBS1L expression correlates with high F cell alleles. The results support a key role for the HBS1L-related genetic variants in HbF control and illustrate the biological complexity of the mechanism of 6q QTL as a modifier of fetal hemoglobin levels in the beta hemoglobinopathies.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





11346 - 11351


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Chromosomes, Human, Pair 6, DNA, Intergenic, Erythroid Precursor Cells, Fetal Hemoglobin, Genetic Variation, Humans, Middle Aged, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myb, Quantitative Trait Loci, Twin Studies as Topic