Transcription factors LRF and BCL11A independently repress expression of fetal hemoglobin

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Science  15 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6270, pp. 285-289
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3312

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Reactivating the fetal globin gene

Mutation of adult-type globin genes causes sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Although treating these hemoglobinopathies with gene therapy is possible, there is a pressing need for pharmacologic approaches to treat general patient populations. One promising approach is to reactivate repressed expression of fetal-type hemoglobin (HbF) in adult erythroid cells. Masuda et al. reveal a molecular mechanism governing HbF repression as mediated by the LRF/ZBTB7A transcription factor. The study may encourage the development of new HbF reactivation therapies for hemoglobinopathies.

Science, this issue p. 285


Genes encoding human β-type globin undergo a developmental switch from embryonic to fetal to adult-type expression. Mutations in the adult form cause inherited hemoglobinopathies or globin disorders, including sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Some experimental results have suggested that these diseases could be treated by induction of fetal-type hemoglobin (HbF). However, the mechanisms that repress HbF in adults remain unclear. We found that the LRF/ZBTB7A transcription factor occupies fetal γ-globin genes and maintains the nucleosome density necessary for γ-globin gene silencing in adults, and that LRF confers its repressive activity through a NuRD repressor complex independent of the fetal globin repressor BCL11A. Our study may provide additional opportunities for therapeutic targeting in the treatment of hemoglobinopathies.

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