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We have used transgenic mice to study the influence of position of the human globin genes relative to the locus control region (LCR) on their expression pattern during development. The LCR, which is located 5' of the globin gene cluster, is normally required for the activation of all the genes. When the human beta-globin gene is linked as a single gene to the LCR it is activated prematurely in the embryonic yolk sac. We show that the correct timing of beta gene activation is restored when it is placed farther from the LCR than a competing human gamma- or alpha-globin gene. Correct timing is not restored when beta is the globin gene closest to the LCR. Similarly, the human gamma-globin gene is silenced earlier when present farthest from the LCR. On the basis of this result, we propose a model of developmental gene control based on stage-specific elements immediately flanking the genes and on polarity in the locus. We suggest that the difference in relative distance to the LCR, which is a consequence of the ordered arrangement of the genes, results in nonreciprocal competition between the genes for activation by the LCR.

Original publication




Journal article


Genes Dev

Publication Date





1387 - 1394


Aging, Animals, Gene Expression Regulation, Genes, Genes, Developmental, Genes, Regulator, Globins, Humans, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, RNA, Restriction Mapping, Transcriptional Activation