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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Jul;87(14):5444-8.

Altered phenotypic expression of immunoglobulin heavy-chain variable-region (VH) genes in Alicia rabbits probably reflects a small deletion in the VH genes closest to the joining region.

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Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Rabbits of the Alicia strain have a mutation (ali) that segregates with the immunoglobulin heavy-chain (lgh) locus and has a cis effect upon the expression of heavy-chain variable-region (VH) genes encoding the a2 allotype. In heterozygous a1/ali or a3/ali rabbits, serum immunoglobulins are almost entirely the products of the normal a1 or a3 allele and only traces of a2 immunoglobulin are detectable. Adult homozygous ali/ali rabbits likewise have normal immunoglobulin levels resulting from increased production of a-negative immunoglobulins and some residual ability to produce the a2 allotype. By contrast, the majority of the immunoglobulins of wild-type a2 rabbits are a2-positive and only a small percentage are a-negative. Genomic DNAs from homozygous mutant and wild-type animals were indistinguishable by Southern analyses using a variety of restriction enzyme digests and lgh probes. However, when digests with infrequently cutting enzymes were analyzed by transverse alternating-field electrophoresis, the ali DNA fragments were 10-15 kilobases smaller than the wild type. These fragments hybridized to probes both for VH and for a region of DNA a few kilobases downstream of the VH genes nearest the joining region. We suggest that this relatively small deletion affects a segment containing 3' VH genes with important regulatory functions, the loss of which leads to the ali phenotype. These results, and the fact that the 3' VH genes rearrange early in B-cell development, indicate that the 3' end of the VH locus probably plays a key role in regulation of VH gene expression.

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