Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) were recently shown to regulate chromatin remodelling activities. Their function in regulating gene expression switching during specific developmental stages is poorly understood. Here we describe a nuclear, non-coding transcript responsive for the stage-specific activation of the chicken adult α(D) globin gene. This non-coding transcript, named α-globin transcript long non-coding RNA (lncRNA-αGT) is transcriptionally upregulated in late stages of chicken development, when active chromatin marks the adult α(D) gene promoter. Accordingly, the lncRNA-αGT promoter drives erythroid-specific transcription. Furthermore, loss of function experiments showed that lncRNA-αGT is required for full activation of the α(D) adult gene and maintenance of transcriptionally active chromatin. These findings uncovered lncRNA-αGT as an important part of the switching from embryonic to adult α-globin gene expression, and suggest a function of lncRNA-αGT in contributing to the maintenance of adult α-globin gene expression by promoting an active chromatin structure.
Keywords: chromatin; development; erythroid differentiation; globin genes; long non-coding RNA.