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We have identified and characterized a Scottish individual with alpha thalassaemia, resulting from a de novo 48 kilobase (kb) deletion from the telomeric flanking region of the alpha globin cluster which occurred as a result of recombination between two misaligned repetitive elements that normally lie approximately 83 kb and 131 kb from the 16p telomere. The deletion removes two previously described putative regulatory elements (HS-40 and HS-33) but leaves two other elements (HS-10 and HS-8) intact. Analysis of this deletion, together with eight other published deletions of the telomeric region, showed that they all severely downregulated alpha globin expression. Together they defined a 20.4-kb region of the human alpha cluster, which contains all of the positive cis-acting elements required to regulate alpha globin expression. Comparative analysis of this region with the corresponding segment of the mouse alpha globin cluster demonstrated conserved non-coding sequences corresponding to the putative regulatory elements HS-40 and HS-33. Although the role of HS-40 as an enhancer of alpha globin expression is fully established, these observations suggest that the role of HS-33 and other sequences in this region should be more fully investigated in the context of the natural human and mouse alpha globin loci.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Haematol

Publication Date





867 - 875


Adult, Base Sequence, Child, Chromosome Breakage, Chromosomes, Human, Pair 16, Down-Regulation, Female, Globins, Humans, Male, Sequence Deletion, Telomere, alpha-Thalassemia