Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

An analysis of fetal hemoglobin variation in sickle cell disease: the relative contributions of the X-linked factor, beta-globin haplotypes, alpha-globin gene number, gender, and age

  1. YC Chang,
  2. KD Smith,
  3. RD Moore,
  4. GR Serjeant, and
  5. GJ Dover
  1. Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.


Five factors have been shown to influence the 20-fold variation of fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) levels in sickle cell anemia (SS): age, sex, the alpha-globin gene number, beta-globin haplotypes, and an X-linked locus that regulates the production of Hb F-containing erythrocytes (F cells), ie, the F-cell production (FCP) locus. To determine the relative importance of these factors, we studied 257 Jamaican SS subjects from a Cohort group identified by newborn screening and from a Sib Pair study. Linear regression analyses showed that each variable, when analyzed alone, had a significant association with Hb F levels (P < .05). Multiple regression analysis, including all variables, showed that the FCP locus is the strongest predictor, accounting for 40% of Hb F variation. beta-Globin haplotypes, alpha-globin genes, and age accounted for less than 10% of the variation. The association between the beta-globin haplotypes and Hb F levels becomes apparent if the influence of the FCP locus is removed by analyzing only individuals with the same FCP phenotype. Thus, the FCP locus is the most important factor identified to date in determining Hb F levels. The variation within each FCP phenotype is modulated by factors associated with the three common beta-globin haplotypes and other as yet unidentified factor(s).