The Θ1 globin gene is an a globin-like gene, and started to diverge from the other members of the a globin family 260 million years ago. DNA sequencing and transcriptional analysis indicated that it is functional in erythroid cells of the higher primates, but not in prosimians and rabbit The 91 promoter region of higher primates including man consists of GC-rich sequences characteristic of housekeeping gene promoters, and CCAAT and TATA boxes located further upstream. It is shown here that the housekeeping gene promoter-like region of human 81 contains two tandemly arranged, GC-rich motifs (GC-I and GC-ip. Of these, GC-II interacts with nuclear factor(s) present in the globin-expressing, erythroleukemia cell line K562, before and after hemin induction. GC-I, however, interacts with nuclear factors) only present in hemin-induced K562 cells. These factors are different from previously reported erythroid cell-specific factors, and are not detectable in non-erythroid Hela cells. Furthermore, the sequence of the motif GC-I and its location relative to ATG codon have been conserved among all known mammalian 01 globin genes. Finally, and most interestingly, the CCAAT box of 81 is contained within a 38 bp internal segment of Alu repeat sequence. Immediately upstream from this CCAAT box-containing Alu repeat segment is a 241 bp Alu repeat pointing in the opposite direction. The conservation of this novel arrangement among the higher primates suggests that an inserted Alu family repeat and its flanking genomic sequence have co-evolved, for at least 30 million years, to provide the canonical CCAAT and TATA promoter elements of the θ1 globin genes in higher primates.
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