The RUNX1 gene on human chromosome 21q22.12 belongs to the 'runt domain' gene family of transcription factors (also known as AML/CBFA/PEBP2α). RUNX1 is a key regulator of hematopoiesis and a frequent target of leukemia associated chromosomal translocations. Here we present a detailed analysis of the RUNX1 locus based on its complete genomic sequence. RUNX1 spans 260 kb and its expression is regulated through two distinct promoter regions, that are 160 kb apart. A very large CpG island complex marks the proximal promoter (promoter-2), and an additional CpG island is located at the 3′ end of the gene. Hitherto, 12 different alternatively spliced RUNX1 cDNAs have been identified. Genomic sequence analysis of intron/exon boundaries of these cDNAs has shown that all consist of properly spliced authentic coding regions. This indicates that the large repertoire of RUNX1 proteins, ranging in size between 20-52 kDa, are generated through usage of alternatively spliced exons some of which contain in frame stop codons. The gene's introns are largely depleted of repetitive sequences, especially of the LINE1 family. The RUNX1 locus marks the transition from a ∼1 Mb of gene-poor region containing only pseudogenes, to a gene-rich region containing several functional genes. A search for RUNX1 sequences that may be involved in the high frequency of chromosomal translocations revealed that a 555 bp long segment originating in chromosome 11 FLI1 gene was transposed into RUNX1 intron 4.1. This intron harbors the t(8;21) and t(3;21) chromosomal breakpoints involved in acute myeloid leukemia. Interestingly, the FLI1 homologous sequence contains a breakpoint of the t(11;22) translocation associated with Ewing's tumors, and may have a similar function in RUNX1.
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