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Int Immunol. 2010 Apr;22(4):227-35. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxq023. Epub 2010 Mar 5.

Preventing AID, a physiological mutator, from deleterious activation: regulation of the genomic instability that is associated with antibody diversity.

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  • 1Department of Immunology and Genomic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshida Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) is essential and sufficient to accomplish class-switch recombination and somatic hypermutation, which are two genetic events required for the generation of antibody-mediated memory responses. However, AID can also introduce genomic instability, giving rise to chromosomal translocation and/or mutations in proto-oncogenes. It is therefore important for cells to suppress AID expression unless B lymphocytes are stimulated by pathogens. The mechanisms for avoiding the accidental activation of AID and thereby avoiding genomic instability can be classified into three types: (i) transcriptional regulation, (ii) post-transcriptional regulation and (iii) target specificity. This review summarizes the recently elucidated comprehensive transcriptional regulation mechanisms of the AID gene and the post-transcriptional regulation that may be critical for preventing excess AID activity. Finally, we discuss why AID targets not only Igs but also other proto-oncogenes. AID targets many genes but it is not totally promiscuous and the criteria that specify its targets are unclear. A recent finding that a non-B DNA structure forms upon a decrease in topoisomerase 1 expression may explain this paradoxical target specificity determination. Evolution has chosen AID as a mutator of Ig genes because of its efficient DNA cleavage activity, even though its presence increases the risk of genomic instability. This is probably because immediate protection against pathogens is more critical for species survival than complete protection from the slower acting consequences of genomic instability, such as tumor formation.

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