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Immunol Rev. 2004 Aug;200:83-9.

Recombination-activating gene proteins: more regulation, please.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA.


Developing B and T cells assemble gene segments in order to create the variable regions of immunoglobulin and T-cell receptors required by our adaptive immune response. The chemistry of this recombination pathway requires a specific nuclease and a more general repair pathway for double-strand breaks. A complex of the recombination-activating gene 1 (RAG1) and RAG2 proteins provides the nuclease activity. In fact, RAG1 and RAG2 probably coordinate many steps involving the coding and signaling DNA sequences. Studies using deletion and truncation mutants of the RAG proteins demonstrate that each of these contain a functional core region, representing about two-thirds of the polypeptides. While the core regions are sufficient to catalyze recombination in test systems, the full-length proteins seem to show more complicated behaviors in vivo. A plausible explanation is that regions outside the core help in the proper regulation of recombination. The non-core region of RAG1 has been found to contain a ubiquitin ligase. Regulatory functions may contribute to autoregulation of the proteins involved, fidelity of the reaction, protection of the cell from translocations, coordination of recombination with the cell cycle, and possibly modification of the chromatin structure of target DNA.

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