The DNA motif WGATAR has been identified within transcriptional regulatory domains of globin and other erythroid-specific genes and the activator proteins that bind to this regulatory element, the GATA factors, belong to a multi-gene family that is expressed in chicken erythroid cells. Here we show that, as in chickens, multiple members of the GATA factor family are expressed in human and murine erythroid cells. During the early stages of chicken embryogenesis (well before blood island formation), each of the GATA family members is transcribed with a unique temporal and spatial pattern. In the primitive erythroid lineage, transcription of the embryonic epsilon-globin gene parallels GATA-1 expression while the switch to beta-globin transcription in definitive erythroid cells is directly preceded by a pronounced increase in GATA-3 accumulation. The timing and pattern of expression of these different mRNAs during avian erythroid development and differentiation suggests that temporally regulated changes in GATA factor expression are required for vertebrate hematopoiesis.

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