A unified model of human hemoglobin switching through single-cell genome editing

Yong Shen, Jeffrey M. Verboon, Yuannyu Zhang, Nan Liu, Yoon Jung Kim, Samantha Marglous, Satish K. Nandakumar, Richard A. Voit, Claudia Fiorini, Ayesha Ejaz, Anindita Basak, Stuart H. Orkin, Jian Xu, Vijay G. Sankaran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Key mechanisms of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) regulation and switching have been elucidated through studies of human genetic variation, including mutations in the HBG1/2 promoters, deletions in the β-globin locus, and variation impacting BCL11A. While this has led to substantial insights, there has not been a unified understanding of how these distinct genetically-nominated elements, as well as other key transcription factors such as ZBTB7A, collectively interact to regulate HbF. A key limitation has been the inability to model specific genetic changes in primary isogenic human hematopoietic cells to uncover how each of these act individually and in aggregate. Here, we describe a single-cell genome editing functional assay that enables specific mutations to be recapitulated individually and in combination, providing insights into how multiple mutation-harboring functional elements collectively contribute to HbF expression. In conjunction with quantitative modeling and chromatin capture analyses, we illustrate how these genetic findings enable a comprehensive understanding of how distinct regulatory mechanisms can synergistically modulate HbF expression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4991
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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