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DNA Repair (Amst). 2006 Feb 3;5(2):278-85. Epub 2005 Nov 7.

Hybrid joint formation in human V(D)J recombination requires nonhomologous DNA end joining.

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USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center Room 5428, Department of Pathology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, MC9176, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


In V(D)J recombination, the RAG proteins bind at a pair of signal sequences adjacent to the V, D, or J coding regions and cleave the DNA, resulting in two signal ends and two hairpinned coding ends. The two coding ends are joined to form a coding joint, and the two signal ends are joined to form a signal joint; this joining is done by the nonhomologous DNA end joining (NHEJ) pathway. A recombinational alternative in which a signal end is recombined with a coding end can also occur in a small percentage of the V(D)J recombination events in murine and human cells, and these are called hybrids (or hybrid joints). Two mechanisms have been proposed for the formation of these hybrids. One mechanism is via NHEJ, after initial cutting by RAGs. The second mechanism does not rely on NHEJ, but rather invokes that the RAGs can catalyze joining of the signal to the hairpinned coding end, by using the 3'OH of the signal end as a nucleophile to attack the phosphodiester bonds of the hairpinned coding end. In the present study, we addressed the question of which type of hybrid joining occurs in a physiological environment, where standard V(D)J recombination presumably occurs and normal RAG proteins are endogenously expressed. We find that all hybrids in vivo require DNA ligase IV in human cells, which is the final component of the NHEJ pathway. Hence, hybrid joints rely on NHEJ rather than on the RAG complex for joining.

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