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The widespread occurrence of intergenic transcription in eukaryotes is increasingly evident. Intergenic transcription in the beta-globin gene cluster has been described in murine and human cells, and models for a role in gene and chromatin activation have been proposed. In this study, we analyze intergenic transcription and the chromatin state throughout the human beta-globin gene cluster and find that the data are not consistent with such activation-linked models. Thus, intergenic transcript levels correlate with neither chromatin activation nor globin gene expression. Instead, we find that intergenic transcripts of the beta-globin gene cluster are specifically upregulated in Dicer-deficient cells. This is accompanied by a shift towards more activated chromatin as indicated by changes in histone tail modifications. Our results strongly implicate RNA interference (RNAi)-related mechanisms in regulating intergenic transcription in the human beta-globin gene cluster and further suggest that RNAi-dependent chromatin silencing in vertebrates is not restricted to the centromeres.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Cell Biol

Publication Date





9724 - 9733


Centromere, Chromatin, DNA, Intergenic, Globins, HeLa Cells, Histones, Humans, Multigene Family, RNA Interference, Ribonuclease III, Transcription, Genetic