The CCDC26 gene is considered to encode a functional noncoding RNA associated with acute myeloid leukemia and other cancers. However, investigations into the physiological roles of CCDC26 are rare. Previously, we reported that CCDC26 regulated proliferation and cell death of leukemia cells through KIT, a receptor tyrosine kinase, by using K562 leukemia cells and their derivative CCDC26-knockdown (KD) cells. Here we propose a new role of CCDC26 in the differentiation of erythroid cells. We showed that expression of embryonic (ε- and ζ-) globins was markedly upregulated in CCDC26-KD cells compared with K562 control cells during hemin-induced differentiation. In contrast, expression of fetal-type γ-globin, a major globin expressed in original K562 cells, was decreased. These changes in the expression of globin genes mainly took place at the transcriptional level, with significant suppression of transcription of adult (β-, δ-) globins in CCDC26-KD cells. Re-introduction of exogenous CCDC26 into the CCDC26-KD cells recovered low-level expression of the embryonal globins. These results suggest CCDC26 has a role in switching transcription of globin genes in the differentiation of erythroid cells. The expression profile of the CCDC26-KD cells and control cells suggests FOG-2, a transcriptional modulator, as a candidate for a mediator of the CCDC26-associated regulation. We showed that both embryonic globins were transcriptionally activated in FOG-2-KD K562 cells. The KIT inhibitor ISCK03 suppressed the production of hemoglobin in K562 cells but did not affect transcription of globin genes. To summarize, FOG-2, but not KIT, is responsible for globin transcriptional regulation by CCDC26.
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