Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Molecular Sciences

Research Advisor

John M. Cunningham, M.D.


Linda M. Hendershot, Ph.D. Satoru K. Nishimoto, Ph.D. Derek A. Persons, M.D., Ph.D. Gerard P. Zambetti, Ph.D.


β-globin, chromatin, EKLF, erythropoiesis, megakaryopoiesis


The zinc finger-encoding transacting factor EKLF, or erythroid Krüppel-like factor, binds key regulatory elements of many erythroid-specific genes, and is essential for definitive erythropoiesis. Mice lacking this factor die of anemia by E15.5 of gestation, failing to activate β-globin gene transcription, and demonstrating a block in the erythroid differentiation program at the primitive erythroblast stage. In contrast, megakaryocytic progenitors are amplified in EKLF-null embryos, with increased Fli-1 gene expression, a marker of early megakaryocytic differentiation. These observations are consistent with the idea that EKLF modulates the megakaryocytic-erythroid (M-E) differentiation switch.

Our laboratory has previously demonstrated that an amino terminal sequence of EKLF (D221EKLF) is required to induce chromatin remodeling at the β-globin promoter in an EKLF-null erythroid cell line. However, additional amino terminal sequences are required for initiation of β-globin gene transcription. To evaluate the role of this chromatin remodeling domain in erythroid and megakaryocytic differentiation in vivo, I have generated a knock-in allele of D221EKLF. Using the recombineering method, a lambda phage-based homolgous recombination method in E. coli, cDNA encoding theD221EKLF domain has been inserted into the endogenous initiation site, thus placing the mutant protein under the cis-regulatory elements of the endogenous murine EKLF locus. Subsequently, D221EKLF alleles have been generated by gene targeting in ES cells. I have used the mice to probe the in vivo role of D221EKLF in definitive hematopoietic cells.

Similar to EKLF-null embryos, mice homozygous for the D221EKLF mutant allele die of anemia by E15.5 of gestation. Molecular analysis ofD221EKLF erythroblasts reveals i) a failure to activate β-globin gene transcription; ii) lack of GATA-1 and NF-E2 recruitment to the β-globin promoter; iii) a block in terminal erythroid differentiation. In contrast to erythroid cells lacking EKLF, D221EKLF erythroid progenitors demonstrate appropriate binding of the D221EKLF encoding domain to all EKLF-regulatory sequences and a chromatin architecture and histone modification pattern at erythroid-specific genes that recapitulate the events observed in wild-type EKLF erythroblasts at a similar stage of erythroid ontogeny.

Examining the role of D221EKLF in megakaryopoiesis, I observed inhibition of megakaryocytic progenitor expansion in D221EKLF fetal hematopoietic cell populations when compared to EKLF-null embryos. Molecular analysis of D221EKLF erythroblasts reveals i) binding of theD221EKLF mutant protein to the Fli-1 promoter with inhibition of gene transcription; ii) hypoacetylation of histone H3 at the Fli-1 promoter; iii) recruitment of a Sin3A-containing corepressor complex to the Fli-1 promoter. Taken together, my results suggest strongly that the unique D221EKLF domain is sufficient to modulate the chromatin-specific roles of EKLF at erythroid- and megakaryocytic-specific loci in definitive hematopoietic cells in vivo.