First Horizon National Corp, the largest bank in Tennessee, said on Wednesday it plans to eliminate at least 1,500 jobs by the middle of next year as it slashes its mortgage sales force and closes branches.

The bank also said it expected mortgage originations to decline significantly as it cuts up to 50 percent of its home loan sales staff.

The company's decision to downsize is the latest in a string of announcements by companies caught in the mortgage crunch. Scores of lenders have cut operations or quit the industry this year and more than a dozen have gone bankrupt.

Last week, Countrywide Financial Corp, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, said it plans to cut 12,000 jobs, or 20 percent of its work force. Like First Horizon, Countrywide said its cuts were in response to an expected decline in mortgage volume.

The U.S. mortgage industry has lost more than 50,000 jobs this year as housing demand softened, foreclosures and loan delinquencies soared, and investors stopped buying many kinds of home loans that are now considered too risky.

(Reporting by Christian Plumb and Dana Ford)