We have identified the first gene lying on the centromeric side of the α-globin gene cluster on human 16p13.3. The gene, called 16pHQG;16 (HGMW-approved symbol LUC7L), is widely transcribed and lies in the opposite orientation with respect to the α-globin genes. This gene may represent a mammalian heterochromatic gene, encoding a putative RNA-binding protein similar to the yeast Luc7p subunit of the U1 snRNP splicing complex that is normally required for 5′ splice site selection. To examine the role of the 16pHQG;16 gene in delimiting the extent of the α-globin regulatory domain, we mapped its mouse orthologue, which we found to lie on mouse chromosome 17, separated from the mouse α-cluster on chromosome 11. Establishing the full extent of the human 16pHQG;16 gene has allowed us to define the centromeric limit of the region of conserved synteny around the human α-globin cluster to within an 8-kb segment of chromosome 16.
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