Mechanisms of developmental control transcription in the murine α and β-globin loci

Tolleiv Trimborn, Joost Gribnau, Frank Grosveld, Peter Fraser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


We have characterized mRNA expression and transcription of the mouse α- and β-globin loci during development. S1 nuclease and primary transcript in situ hybridization analyses demonstrate that all seven murine globin genes (ζ, α1, α2, εy, βH1, βmaj, and βmin) are transcribed during primitive erythropoiesis, however transcription of the ζ, εy, and βH1 genes is restricted to the primitive erythroid lineage. Transcription of the βmaj and βmin genes in primitive cells is EKLF-dependent demonstrating EKLF activity in embryonic red cells. Novel kinetic analyses suggest that multigene expression in the β locus occurs via alternating single-gene transcription whereas coinitiation cannot be ruled out in the α locus. Transcriptional activation of the individual murine β genes in primitive cells correlates inversely with their distance from the locus control region, in contrast with the human β locus in which the adult genes are only activated in definitive erythroid cells. The results suggest that the multigene expression mechanism of alternating transcription is evolutionarily conserved between mouse and human β globin loci but that the timing of activation of the adult genes is altered, indicating important fundamental differences in globin gene switching.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-124
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999


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