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J Exp Med. 2002 May 6;195(9):1187-92.

DNA double-strand breaks: prior to but not sufficient in targeting hypermutation.

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  • 1Basel Institute for Immunology, CH-4005 Basel, Switzerland.


The activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) is required for somatic hypermutation (SHM) and class-switch recombination (CSR) of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes, both of which are associated with DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). As AID is capable of deaminating deoxy-cytidine (dC) to deoxy-uracil (dU), it might induce nicks (single strand DNA breaks) and also DNA DSBs via a U-DNA glycosylase-mediated base excision repair pathway ('DNA-substrate model'). Alternatively, AID functions like its closest homologue Apobec1 as a catalytic subunit of a RNA editing holoenzyme ('RNA-substrate model'). Although rearranged Vlambda genes are preferred targets of SHM we found that germinal center (GC) B cells of AID-proficient and -deficient Vlambda1-expressing GC B cells display a similar frequency, distribution, and sequence preference of DSBs in rearranged and also in germline Vlambda1 genes. The possible roles of DSBs in relation to AID function and SHM are discussed.

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