The locus control region (LCR) was thought to be necessary and sufficient for establishing and maintaining an open beta-globin locus chromatin domain in the repressive environment of the developing erythrocyte. However, deletion of the LCR from the endogenous locus had no significant effect on chromatin structure and did not silence transcription. Thus, the cis-regulatory elements that confer the open domain remain unidentified. The conserved DNaseI hypersensitivity sites (HSs) HS-62.5 and 3'HS1 that flank the locus, and the region upstream of the LCR have been implicated in globin gene regulation. The flanking HSs bind CCCTC binding factor (CTCF) and are thought to interact with the LCR to form a "chromatin hub" involved in beta-globin gene activation. Hispanic thalassemia, a deletion of the LCR and 27 kb upstream, leads to heterochromatinization and silencing of the locus. Thus, the region upstream of the LCR deleted in Hispanic thalassemia (upstream Hispanic region [UHR]) may be required for expression. To determine the importance of the UHR and flanking HSs for beta-globin expression, we generated and analyzed mice with targeted deletions of these elements. We demonstrate deletion of these regions alone, and in combination, do not affect transcription, bringing into question current models for the regulation of the beta-globin locus.
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