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Nature. 1986 Aug 28-Sep 3;322(6082):840-2.

A novel VH to VHDJH joining mechanism in heavy-chain-negative (null) pre-B cells results in heavy-chain production.


During B-cell development, the VH genes of immunoglobulin heavy (H) chains are assembled from three different germline components: the variable (VH) segment, the diversity (D) segment and the joining (JH) segment. The joining between two segments involves the recognition of conserved nonamer-heptamer sequences bordering each segment, double-stranded cuts at the heptamer-segment border, and the re-ligation of the two segment ends which have frequently been modified by the deletion and addition of nucleotides. The flexibility of the joint increases VHDJH variability. However, it also results in many pre-B cells which do not produce immunoglobulin H chains and have non-functional VHDJH complexes carrying the VH and JH coding sequences in different reading frames. We show here that such 'null cells' are not dead-end products of the B-cell developmental pathway but can perform a novel VH to VHDJH joining using a 5' VH segment to replace the VH sequence of the VHDJ-H complex. This process can result in the generation of a VHDJ+H complex and the subsequent expression of an immunoglobulin heavy chain.

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