Understanding regulation of fetal and embryonic hemoglobin expression is critical, since their expression decreases clinical severity in sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. K562 cells, a human erythroleukemia cell line, can differentiate along erythroid or megakaryocytic lineages and serve as a model for regulation of fetal/embryonic globin expression. We used microarray expression profiling to characterize transcriptomes from K562 cells treated for various times with hemin, an inducer of erythroid commitment. Approximately 5,000 genes were expressed irrespective of treatment. Comparative expression analysis (CEA) identified 899 genes as differentially expressed; analysis by the self-organizing map (SOM) algorithm clustered 425 genes into 8 distinct expression patterns, 322 of which were shared by both analyses. Differential expression of a subset of genes was validated by real-time RT-PCR. Analysis of 5'-flanking regions from differentially expressed genes by PAINT v3.0 software showed enrichment in specific transcription regulatory elements (TREs), some localizing to different expression clusters. This finding suggests coordinate regulation of cluster members by specific TREs. Finally, our findings provide new insights into rate-limiting steps in the appearance of heme-containing hemoglobin tetramers in these cells.