ERV9 is a low repeated family of human endogenous retroviral elements, which has close to 50 members, in addition to at least 4000 solitary LTRs. Previous work has shown that randomly selected LTRs can promote transcription of reporter genes, raising the possibility that these sequences may affect the expression of adjacent cellular genes. We describe here the structure of the ZNF80 cDNA clone putatively coding for a zinc-finger protein, whose 5′ terminus starts from within an ERV9-LTR. Characterization of the single copy genomic locus indicates that a complete ERV9-LTR element is present upstream of the ZNF80 coding region and that this element acts as a functional promoter in both in vivo and in vitro experiments. A 2.6 kb long transcript is selectively expressed only in some hematopoletic cell lineages. Interestingly we mapped the ZNF80 locus to the 3q13.3 band, a region involved in karyotype rearrangements associated with myelocytic disorders. We have also analyzed the ZNF80 genomic organization In African green monkey and we show that this lower primate does not harbour an ERV9 element at this locus. Our findings strongly suggest that the expression of a zinc finger gene, which is highly conserved during evolution of primates, Is regulated in humans by an LTR element of the ERV9 family.
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