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J Immunol. 2016 Oct 15;197(8):3188-3197. Epub 2016 Sep 9.

An Ectopic CTCF Binding Element Inhibits Tcrd Rearrangement by Limiting Contact between Vδ and Dδ Gene Segments.

Chen L1, Zhao L2,3,4, Alt FW2,3,4, Krangel MS5.

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Department of Immunology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston, MA 02115.
Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115; and.
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.
Department of Immunology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710;


Chromatin looping mediated by the CCCTC binding factor (CTCF) regulates V(D)J recombination at Ag receptor loci. CTCF-mediated looping can influence recombination signal sequence (RSS) accessibility by regulating enhancer activation of germline promoters. CTCF-mediated looping has also been shown to limit directional tracking of the RAG recombinase along chromatin, and to regulate long-distance interactions between RSSs, independent of the RAG recombinase. However, in all prior instances in which CTCF-mediated looping was shown to influence V(D)J recombination, it was not possible to fully resolve the relative contributions to the V(D)J recombination phenotype of changes in accessibility, RAG tracking, and RAG-independent long-distance interactions. In this study, to assess mechanisms by which CTCF-mediated looping can impact V(D)J recombination, we introduced an ectopic CTCF binding element (CBE) immediately downstream of Eδ in the murine Tcra-Tcrd locus. The ectopic CBE impaired inversional rearrangement of Trdv5 in the absence of measurable effects on Trdv5 transcription and chromatin accessibility. The ectopic CBE also limited directional RAG tracking from the Tcrd recombination center, demonstrating that a single CBE can impact the distribution of RAG proteins along chromatin. However, such tracking cannot account for Trdv5-to-Trdd2 inversional rearrangement. Rather, the defect in Trdv5 rearrangement could only be attributed to a reconfigured chromatin loop organization that limited RAG-independent contacts between the Trdv5 and Trdd2 RSSs. We conclude that CTCF can regulate V(D)J recombination by segregating RSSs into distinct loop domains and inhibiting RSS synapsis, independent of any effects on transcription, RSS accessibility, and RAG tracking.

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