Long-range chromatin reorganization of the human serpin gene cluster at 14q32.1 accompanies gene activation and extinction in microcell hybrids

Genomics. 1999 Feb 15;56(1):22-30. doi: 10.1006/geno.1998.5680.


The genes encoding alpha1-antitrypsin (alpha1AT, gene symbol PI) and corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG) are part of a cluster of six serine protease inhibitor (serpin) genes located on human chromosome 14q32.1. Both genes are actively transcribed in the liver and in human hepatoma cells, but they are not expressed in most other cell types. In this study we mapped DNase I-hypersensitive sites (DHSs) in an approximately 130-kb region of 14q32.1 that includes both genes. The distributions of DHSs in expressing (HepG2) vs nonexpressing (HeLa S3) cells were very different: HepG2 cells displayed 29 DHSs in this interval, but only 7 of those sites were present in HeLa cells. To determine the chromatin organization of activated or extinguished serpin alleles, we transferred human chromosome 14 into rat hepatoma cells or fibroblasts, respectively. Human alpha1AT and CBG gene expression was activated in rat hepatoma microcell hybrids containing human chromosome 14, but extinguished in rat fibroblast hybrids with the same genotype. DHS mapping in these microcell hybrids demonstrated that the chromatin structure of the entire 130-kb region was reorganized in microcell hybrids, and the distributions of DHSs in activated and extinguished alleles recapitulated those of expressing and nonexpressing cells, respectively. Thus, microcell hybrids provide a system in which reproducible changes in gene activity and long-range chromatin organization can be induced experimentally. This provides a basis for studying the effects of targeted modifications of the alpha1AT and CBG loci on the regulation of gene activity and chromatin structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 14 / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Hybrid Cells / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Serpins / genetics*
  • Transcortin / genetics
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • Serpins
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin
  • Transcortin