When a red cell nuclear extract (RCE) from adult chickens was injected into Xenopus oocytes along with the chicken beta globin gene, transcript levels were dramatically reduced compared to injection of DNA alone. The inhibitory action of the RCE was not specific to the beta globin gene since the Herpes thymidine kinase and Xenopus 5S RNA gene transcript levels were similarly reduced. Transcriptional repression was observed even after passage of the RCE through oocyte cytoplasm to the nucleus. The inhibitory activity binds to DNA cellulose, which suggests that the inhibitor either binds to DNA or associates with DNA-binding proteins. Nuclease digestion of the chromatin assembled on injected beta globin DNA revealed that inhibition was not associated with local changes in chromatin structure. Extracts from 9-d chicken embryonic erythroid cells, in which the endogenous beta globin gene is actively expressed, did not inhibit transcription. The inhibitory activity is, therefore, restricted to transcriptionally quiescent, adult erythrocytes. Since the inhibitory effects were seen with both polymerase II and III directed genes, we speculate that the activity may be part of the extreme transcriptional repression which occurs in the terminally differentiated erythrocyte.

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