Erythroid-specific DNase I super-hypersensitive (HS) sites that are normally located far upstream of the human beta-globin locus were inserted immediately upstream of a 4.1-kb fragment containing the human beta-globin gene. These constructs (HS beta) and a construct containing the beta-globin gene alone (beta) were microinjected into fertilized mouse eggs, and expression was analyzed in erythroid fetal liver and brain of day-16 embryos that developed. Only 7 of 23 animals that contained the beta gene alone expressed human beta-globin mRNA in erythroid tissue, and the average level of expression per gene copy was 0.3% of endogenous mouse beta-globin mRNA. In contrast, 50 of 51 transgenic mice that contained various HS beta constructs expressed the transgene specifically in erythroid tissue. The average level of expression per gene copy for constructs containing all five upstream HS sites was 109% of endogenous mouse beta-globin mRNA. Constructs that contained a single super-hypersensitive site (HS II beta) expressed 40% as much human beta-globin as mouse beta-globin mRNA per gene copy. These results demonstrate that the HS VI site, normally located downstream of the human beta-globin locus, is not required for high-level expression. Furthermore, the results demonstrate that high levels of human beta-globin gene expression can be obtained in transgenic mice even when a relatively small fragment of DNA (1.9 kb) containing erythroid-specific super-hypersensitive site II (HS II) is inserted upstream of the human beta-globin gene.