The locus control region (LCR) of mammalian β-globin genes covers at least 17 kb at the 5' end of the gene cluster and has been implicated in chromatin domain opening, enhancement, and insulation from neighboring sequences. Functional dissection of the LCR has defined the minimal cores for four of the five major DNase hypersensitive sites (HSs) that mark this regulatory region. To examine fully the patterns of conserved sequences in the mammalian homologs to the β-globin LCR, we determined the complete DNA sequence of the galago β-globin LCR and completed previously unsequenced regions of the rabbit LCR. Simultaneous alignment of these sequences with the human, goat, and mouse LCRs revealed conserved sequences (phylogenetic footprints) detected using three largely independent methods. The most highly conserved segments are found both within the HS cores and in some but not all regions flanking the cores. These results argue for an extended pattern of well-conserved sequences, many of which lie outside the minimal cores, and we show that a key sequence required for domain opening by the region including HS3 maps about 1 kb 5' to the minimal core. Differential phylogenetic footprints, containing sequences conserved in nonhuman mammals but not in humans, are found primarily around HS3, consistent with some species-specific differences in function that may be important for differences in hemoglobin switching during development.
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