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Immunol Rev. 2004 Feb;197:231-42.

The molecular basis and biological significance of VH replacement.

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Division of Developmental and Clinical Immunology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294-3300, USA.


First observed in mouse pre-B-cell lines and then in knock-in mice carrying self-reactive IgH transgenes, VH replacement has now been shown to contribute to the primary B-cell repertoire in humans. Through recombination-activating gene (RAG)-mediated recombination between a cryptic recombination signal sequence (RSS) present in almost all VH genes and the flanking 23 base pair RSS of an upstream VH gene, VH replacement renews the entire VH-coding region, while leaving behind a short stretch of nucleotides as a VH replacement footprint. In addition to extending the CDR3 region, the VH replacement footprints preferentially contribute charged amino acids. VH replacement rearrangement in immature B cells may either eliminate a self-reactive B-cell receptor or contribute to the generation of self-reactive antibodies. VH replacement may also rescue non-productive or dysfunctional VHDJH rearrangement in pro-B and pre-B cells. Conversely, VH replacement of a productive immunoglobulin H gene may generate non-productive VH replacement to disrupt or temporarily reverse the B-cell differentiation process. VH replacement can thus play a complex role in the generation of the primary B-cell repertoire.

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