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EMBO J. 1991 Dec;10(12):3631-9.

Cutting and closing without recombination in V(D)J joining.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125.


Open and shut junctions are rare (V(D)J joining products in which site-specific recognition, cleavage and re-ligation of joining signals has been uncoupled from recombination. Here, we investigate the relationship of opening and shutting to recombination in two ways. First, we have tested a series of substrates containing one or two joining signals in an in vivo assay. Opening and shutting can be readily observed in substrates that have only one consensus joining signal. Thus, unlike recombination, the majority of open and shut events do not require interactions between two canonical joining signals. Next we examined two-signal substrates to investigate the effect of signal proximity on the frequency of dual open and shut events. These experiments indicate that at least some of the time opening and shutting can be a two-signal transaction. Together these results point to two mechanistically related, but distinct origins for open and shut joining events. In one case, cutting and closing may occur without interaction between two signals. In the other, we suggest that interaction of a canonical signal with 'cryptic' signal-like elements whose sequence is extensively diverged from canonical signals, may bias the V(D)J recombination machinery towards opening and shutting rather than recombination. Open and shut operations could in this way provide a means whereby mistakes in target recognition by the V(D)J recombination machinery produce a non-recombinant outcome, avoiding deleterious chromosomal rearrangements in lymphoid tissues.

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