Developmental and species-divergent globin switching are driven by BCL11A

Vijay G. Sankaran, Jian Xu, Tobias Ragoczy, Gregory C. Ippolito, Carl R. Walkley, Shanna D. Maika, Yuko Fujiwara, Masafumi Ito, Mark Groudine, M. A. Bender, Philip W. Tucker, Stuart H. Orkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

316 Scopus citations


The contribution of changes in cis-regulatory elements or trans-acting factors to interspecies differences in gene expression is not well understood. The mammalian β-globin loci have served as a model for gene regulation during development. Transgenic mice containing the human β-globin locus, consisting of the linked embryonic (ε), fetal (γ) and adult (β) genes, have been used as a system to investigate the temporal switch from fetal to adult haemoglobin, as occurs in humans. Here we show that the human γ-globin (HBG) genes in these mice behave as murine embryonic globin genes, revealing a limitation of the model and demonstrating that critical differences in the trans-acting milieu have arisen during mammalian evolution. We show that the expression of BCL11A, a repressor of human γ-globin expression identified by genome-wide association studies, differs between mouse and human. Developmental silencing of the mouse embryonic globin and human γ-globin genes fails to occur in mice in the absence of BCL11A. Thus, BCL11A is a critical mediator of species-divergent globin switching. By comparing the ontogeny of β-globin gene regulation in mice and humans, we have shown that alterations in the expression of a trans-acting factor constitute a critical driver of gene expression changes during evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1093-1097
Number of pages5
Issue number7259
StatePublished - Aug 27 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental and species-divergent globin switching are driven by BCL11A'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this