Comparative genome analysis delimits a chromosomal domain and identifies key regulatory elements in the alpha globin cluster.
Flint J., Tufarelli C., Peden J., Clark K., Daniels RJ., Hardison R., Miller W., Philipsen S., Tan-Un KC., McMorrow T., Frampton J., Alter BP., Frischauf AM., Higgs DR.
We have cloned, sequenced and annotated segments of DNA spanning the mouse, chicken and pufferfish alpha globin gene clusters and compared them with the corresponding region in man. This has defined a small segment ( approximately 135-155 kb) of synteny and conserved gene order, which may contain all of the elements required to fully regulate alpha globin gene expression from its natural chromosomal environment. Comparing human and mouse sequences using previously described methods failed to identify the known regulatory elements. However, refining these methods by ranking identity scores of non-coding sequences, we found conserved sequences including the previously characterized alpha globin major regulatory element. In chicken and pufferfish, regions that may correspond to this element were found by analysing the distribution of transcription factor binding sites. Regions identified in this way act as strong enhancer elements in expression assays. In addition to delimiting the alpha globin chromosomal domain, this study has enabled us to develop a more sensitive and accurate routine for identifying regulatory elements in the human genome.