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Erythroid Kruppel-like factor (EKLF) is an erythroid-specific transcription factor that contains zinc finger domains similar to the Kruppel protein of Drosophila melanogaster. Previous studies demonstrated that EKLF binds to the CACCC box in the human β-globin gene promoter and activates transcription. CACCC box mutations that cause severe β-thalassemias in humans inhibit EKLF binding. Results described in this paper suggest that EKLF functions predominately in adult erythroid tissue. The EKLF gene is expressed at a 3-fold higher level in adult erythroid tissue than in fetal erythroid tissue, and the EKLF protein binds to the human β-globin promoter 8-fold more efficiently than to the human γ-globin promoter. Co-transfection experiments in the human fetal-like erythroleukemia cell line K562 demonstrate that over-expression of EKLF activates a β-globin reporter construct 1000-fold; a linked γ-globin reporter is activated only 3-fold. Mutation of the β-globin CACCC box severely inhibits activation. These results demonstrate that EKLF is a developmental stage-enriched protein that preferentially activates human β-globin gene expression. The data strongly suggest that EKLF is an important factor involved in human γ- to β-globin gene switching.

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Journal of Biological Chemistry

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