Mechanism for fetal globin gene expression: Role of the soluble guanylate cyclase-cGMP-dependent protein kinase pathway

Tohru Ikuta, Sabrina Ausenda, Maria D. Cappellini

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Despite considerable concerns with pharmacological stimulation of fetal hemoglobin (Hb F) as a therapeutic option for the β-globin disorders, the molecular basis of action of Hb F-inducing agents remains unclear. Here we show that an intracellular pathway including soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) and cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG) plays a role in induced expression of the γ-globin gene. sGC, an obligate heterodimer of α- and β-subunits, participates in a variety of physiological processes by converting GTP to cGMP. Northern blot analyses with erythroid cell lines expressing different β-like globin genes showed that, whereas the β-subunit is expressed at similar levels, high-level expression of the α-subunit is preferentially observed in erythroid cells expressing γ-globin but not those expressing β-globin. Also, the levels of expression of the γ-globin gene correlate to those of the α-subunit. sGC activators or cGMP analogs increased expression of the γ-globin gene in erythroleukemic cells as well as in primary erythroblasts from normal subjects and patients with β-thalassemia. Nuclear run-off assays showed that the sGC activator protoporphyrin IX stimulates transcription of the γ-globin gene. Furthermore, increased expression of the γ-globin gene by well known Hb F-inducers such as hemin and butyrate was abolished by inhibiting sGC or PKG activity. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that the sGC-PKG pathway constitutes a mechanism that regulates expression of the γ-globin gene. Further characterization of this pathway should permit us to develop new therapeutics for the β-globin disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1847-1852
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 13 2001
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

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