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Two independent genetic factors in the beta-globin gene cluster are associated with high G gamma-levels in the HbF of SS patients

JG Gilman and TH Huisman

Abstract

The gamma-chains of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) of newborn babies are composed of about 70% G gamma and 30% A gamma. In most babies, the G gamma value declines postnatally to 40%, but in about 20% of black SS patients from Georgia, 5 years and older, the G gamma level remains high at 60%. Moreover, some 3% to 4% of black newborns have high G gamma values of 85%. PstI digestion of DNA of one such high G gamma baby and of one normal newborn showed the former to be heterozygous for the -G gamma-G gamma- and -G gamma-A gamma-chromosomes. Only about one fourth of high G gamma SS patients were such heterozygotes, while three fourths were -G gamma-A gamma-/-G gamma-A gamma-homozygotes. Analysis of DNA of 38 SS patients without the -G gamma-G gamma-chromosome showed a correlation of G gamma values with genotype at one polymorphic restriction site: at the HincII site in the psi beta gene, all -G gamma- A gamma-/-G gamma-A gamma-homozygotes with high G gamma were +/- or +/+, while low G gamma individuals were all -/-. Family studies, involving analyses at four polymorphic sites (HindIII sites in the G gamma and A gamma genes and HincII sites in the psi beta gene and 3′ to it), suggested the association of an unidentified high G gamma genetic determinant with haplotype + - + +. This indicates that a genetic factor causing high G gamma levels in SS patients is closely linked to the -G gamma-A gamma-psi beta region of the beta-globin gene cluster.