We have chosen human fibroblast x mouse erythroleukemia hybrid cells as a model system to examine regulation of unique genes. The globin genes were studied as a marker of erythroid differentiation. Three separate hybrid cell lines were incubated in 2% dimethylsulfoxide, an agent which induces erythroid differentiation of the parental erythroleukemia cells. Neither human nor mouse globin mRNA sequences could be detected by a sensitive molecular hybridization assay which utilized globin complementary DNA. However, DNA from one of the cell lines was shown to contain both the mouse and human globin genes. Thus, loss of the genes by chromosomal segregation did not account for their failure to be expressed. Cocultivation of the mouse erythroleukemia cells with excess human fibroblasts did not prevent erythroid differentiation of the erythroleukemia cells in the presence of dimethylsulfoxide. Similarly globin gene expression was preserved in tetraploid cells generated by fusion of two erythroleukemia lines. Thus, extinction of globin gene expression in the human fibroblast x erythroleukemia hybrids occurred at the level of mRNA production and appeared to be due to the presence of the fibroblast genome within the hybrid cell.
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