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J Immunol. 2002 Mar 1;168(5):2302-6.

Evolution of Ig DNA sequence to target specific base positions within codons for somatic hypermutation.

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Department of Immunology, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, 1400 Jackson Street, Denver, CO 80206, USA.


Ig variable (V) region genes are subjected to a somatic hypermutation process as B lymphocytes participate in immune reactions to protein Ags. Although little is known regarding the mechanism of mutagenesis, a consistent hierarchy of trinucleotide target preferences is evident. Analysis of trinucleotide regional distributions predicted and we now empirically confirm the surprising finding that the framework 2 region of kappa V region genes is highly mutable despite its importance to the structural integrity and function of the Ab molecule. Interestingly, much of this mutability appears to be focused on the third codon position where synonymous substitutions are most likely to occur. We also observed a trend for high predicted mutability for codon positions 1 and 2 in complementarity-determining regions. Consequently, amino acid replacements should occur at a higher rate in complementarity-determining regions than in framework regions due to the distribution and subsequent targeting of microsequences by the mutation mechanism. Our results reveal a subtle tier of V region gene evolution in which DNA sequence has been molded to direct mutations to specific base positions within codons in a manner that minimizes damage and maximizes the benefits of the somatic hypermutation process.

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