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A major regulatory element required for expression of the human alpha-globin genes is located 40 kb upstream of the embryonic zeta-globin gene. To understand how this and other locus control region (LCR) elements contribute to high-level expression in erythroid cells, we have performed high-resolution, in vivo dimethyl sulfate footprinting. In addition, we have modified the dimethyl sulfate-based ligation-mediated polymerase chain reaction in vivo footprinting procedure to permit the assessment of interactions at guanine and adenine residues, rather than guanines alone. In vivo footprinting of the human alpha-LCR element carried on chromosome 16 in a mouse erythroleukemia cell environment revealed protein occupancy at GATA-1, AP-1/NF-E2, and CACC/GGTGG motifs, specific differences compared with in vitro protein binding, and distinct changes in one region upon dimethyl sulfoxide-induced cellular maturation. No protein contacts were detected in nonexpressing hepatoma cells. In addition, we have demonstrated that two AP-1 motifs in the alpha-LCR element which are occupied in vivo bind purified mouse NF-E2 protein in vitro. Our data suggest that three proteins, GATA-1, NF-E2, and unknown CACC/GGTGG factors, are minimally required as DNA-binding proteins for the function of LCR-like elements. The juxtaposition and interaction of these factors with each other, and with accessory proteins not directly in contact with DNA, are likely to account for the relative position independence of the upstream globin regulatory elements.

Original publication




Journal article


Molecular and cellular biology

Publication Date





2135 - 2142


Division of Hematology/Oncology, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.


Cell Line, Hybrid Cells, Animals, Humans, Mice, Adenine, Guanine, Globins, DNA-Binding Proteins, DNA, DNA Fingerprinting, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Binding Sites, Base Sequence, Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid, Methylation, Molecular Sequence Data, Promoter Regions, Genetic