To study epigenetic regulation of the human beta-globin locus during hematopoiesis, we investigated patterns of histone modification and chromatin accessibility along this locus in hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) derived from both humans and transgenic mice. We demonstrate that the developmentally related activation of human beta-like globin genes in humans and transgenic mice HPCs is preceded by a wave of gene-specific histone H3 hyperacetylation and K4 dimethylation. In erythroid cells, expression of beta-like globin genes is associated with histone hyperacetylation along these genes and, surprisingly, with local deacetylation at active promoters. We also show that endogenous mouse beta major and human beta-like genes are subject to different epigenetic control mechanisms in HPCs. This difference is likely due to intrinsic properties of the human beta-globin locus since, in transgenic mice, this locus is epigenetically regulated in the same manner as in human HPCs. Our results suggest that a defined pattern of histone H3 acetylation/dimethylation is important for specific activation of human globin promoters during development in human and transgenic HPCs. We propose that this transient acetylation/dimethylation is involved in gene-specific potentiation in HPCs (ie, before extensive chromatin remodeling and transcription take place in erythroid cells).