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Nat Immunol. 2007 Apr;8(4):378-87. Epub 2007 Mar 4.

Reversible contraction by looping of the Tcra and Tcrb loci in rearranging thymocytes.

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Department of Immunology and Molecular Pathology, Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London, London W1T 4JF, UK.


Reversible contraction of immunoglobulin loci juxtaposes the variable (V) genes next to the (diversity)-joining-constant ((D)JC) gene domain, thus facilitating V-(D)J recombination. Here we show that the T cell receptor beta (Tcrb) and T cell receptor alphadelta (Tcra-Tcrd) loci also underwent long-range interactions by looping in double-negative and double-positive thymocytes, respectively. Contraction of the Tcrb and Tcra loci occurred in rearranging thymocytes and was reversed at the next developmental stage. Decontraction of the Tcrb locus probably prevented further V(beta)-DJ(beta) rearrangements in double-positive thymocytes by separating the V(beta) genes from the DJC(beta) domain. In most double-negative cells, one Tcrb allele was recruited to pericentromeric heterochromatin. Such allelic positioning may facilitate asynchronous V(beta)-DJ(beta) recombination. Hence, pericentromeric recruitment and locus 'decontraction' seem to contribute to the initiation and maintenance of allelic exclusion at the Tcrb locus.

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