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Int Immunol. 2017 Apr 1;29(4):183-196. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxx027.

A transcriptional serenAID: the role of noncoding RNAs in class switch recombination.

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Immunology Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis Program, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, New York, NY 10065, USA.


During an immune response, activated B cells may undergo class switch recombination (CSR), a molecular rearrangement that allows B cells to switch from expressing IgM and IgD to a secondary antibody heavy chain isotype such as IgG, IgA or IgE. Secondary antibody isotypes provide the adaptive immune system with distinct effector functions to optimally combat various pathogens. CSR occurs between repetitive DNA elements within the immunoglobulin heavy chain (Igh) locus, termed switch (S) regions and requires the DNA-modifying enzyme activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID). AID-mediated DNA deamination within S regions initiates the formation of DNA double-strand breaks, which serve as biochemical beacons for downstream DNA repair pathways that coordinate the ligation of DNA breaks. Myriad factors contribute to optimal AID targeting; however, many of these factors also localize to genomic regions outside of the Igh locus. Thus, a current challenge is to explain the specific targeting of AID to the Igh locus. Recent studies have implicated noncoding RNAs in CSR, suggesting a provocative mechanism that incorporates Igh-specific factors to enable precise AID targeting. Here, we chronologically recount the rich history of noncoding RNAs functioning in CSR to provide a comprehensive context for recent and future discoveries. We present a model for the RNA-guided targeting of AID that attempts to integrate historical and recent findings, and highlight potential caveats. Lastly, we discuss testable hypotheses ripe for current experimentation, and explore promising ideas for future investigations.


AID; activation-induced cytidine deaminase; noncoding RNA targeting

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