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We have analysed the structure of the Xenopus beta globin gene 5' flanking region in erythroid and non-erythroid chromatin, in supercoiled plasmids and in minichromosomes assembled in HeLa cell transfections. We have identified two erythroid chromatin-specific, nuclease-hypersensitive sites (HSs), one centred on the cap site, the other located 1000 base-pairs further upstream. An (AT)n tract is located 200 base-pairs upstream from each of these sites. In supercoiled plasmids, the (AT)n tracts, and not the chromatin HSs, are preferentially cleaved by single strand and double strand-specific nucleases. Using restriction enzymes, we have looked at the structure of the cap site HS in minichromosomes assembled in HeLa cell transfections. We find that the structure is indistinguishable from that found in erythroid chromatin, thus reinforcing our previous suggestion, based only on DNase I studies, that the formation of this HS is not dependent on erythroid-specific factors. In view of this close structural mimicry of the situation in vivo, we have used the HeLa cell model system to study the sequences required for cap site HS formation. We find that deletion of the (AT)n tract immediately upstream influenced neither the formation of the HS nor transcription of the globin gene. Indeed, these features remained unaffected by further deletion of upstream sequences, including 50 base-pairs of the HS itself. In this construct, the dimensions of the HS remained the same as in the undeleted construct, with the plasmid sequences that replaced the deleted Xenopus sequences becoming hypersensitive. Thus, HS formation is directed by sequences downstream from --116 acting over a distance of at least 50 base-pairs.


Journal article


J Mol Biol

Publication Date





575 - 585


Animals, Base Sequence, Chromatin, DNA, DNA, Superhelical, Gene Expression Regulation, Globins, HeLa Cells, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Plasmids, Transcription, Genetic, Transcriptional Activation, Transfection, Xenopus laevis