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Nature. 2000 Jun 1;405(6786):583-6.

Recombination signal sequences restrict chromosomal V(D)J recombination beyond the 12/23 rule.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Children's Hospital and Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School and The Center for Blood Research, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The genes encoding the variable regions of lymphocyte antigen receptors are assembled from variable (V), diversity (D) and joining (J) gene segments. V(D)J recombination is initiated by the recombinase activating gene (RAG)-1 and -2 proteins, which introduce DNA double-strand breaks between the V, D and J segments and their flanking recombination signal sequences (RSSs). Generally expressed DNA repair proteins then carry out the joining reaction. The conserved heptamer and nonamer sequences of the RSSs are separated by non-conserved spacers of 12 or 23 base pairs (forming 12-RSSs and 23-RSSs). The 12/23 rule, which is mediated at the level of RAG-1/2 recognition and cutting, specifies that V(D)J recombination occurs only between a gene segment flanked by a 12-RSS and one flanked by a 23-RSS. Vbeta segments are appended to DJbeta rearrangements, with little or no direct Vbeta to Jbeta joining, despite 12/23 compatibility of Vbeta 23-RSSs and Jbeta12-RSSs. Here we use embryonic stem cells and mice with a modified T-cell receptor (TCR)beta locus containing only one Dbeta (Dbeta1) gene segment and one Jbeta (Jbeta1) gene cluster to show that the 5' Dbeta1 12-RSS, but not the Jbeta1 12-RSSs, targets rearrangement of a diverse Vbeta repertoire. This targeting is precise and position-independent. This additional restriction on V(D)J recombination has important implications for the regulation of variable region gene assembly and repertoire development.

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