Expression of the β-globin genes proceeds from basal to exceptionally high levels during erythroid differentiation in vivo. High expression is dependent on the locus control region (LCR) and coincides with more frequent LCR-gene contacts. These contacts are established in the context of an active chromatin hub (ACH), a spatial chromatin configuration in which the LCR, together with other regulatory sequences, loops toward the active β-globin-like genes. Here, we used recently established I/11 cells as a model system that faithfully recapitulates the in vivo erythroid differentiation program to study the molecular events that accompany and underlie ACH formation. Upon I/11 cell induction, histone modifications changed, the ACH was formed, and the β-globin-like genes were transcribed at rates similar to those observed in vivo. The establishment of frequent LCR-gene contacts coincided with a more efficient loading of polymerase onto the β-globin promoter. Binding of the transcription factors GATA-1 and EKLF to the locus, although previously shown to be required, was not sufficient for ACH formation. Moreover, we used knock-out mice to show that the erythroid transcription factor p45 NF-E2, which has been implicated in β-globin gene regulation, is dispensable for β-globin ACH formation.

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Kooren, J.A, Palstra, R.J.T.S, Klous, P, Splinter, D, von Lindern, M.M, Grosveld, F.G, & de Laat, W.L. (2007). β-Globin active chromatin hub formation in differentiating erythroid cells and in p45 NF-E2 knock-out mice. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 282(22), 16544–16552. doi:10.1074/jbc.M701159200