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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Aug 16;91(17):8067-71.

Molecular characterization of J558 genes encoding tight-skin mouse autoantibodies: identical heavy-chain variable genes code for antibodies with different specificities.

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Department of Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029-6574.


Tight-skin mouse, a mutant strain with a single gene defect, develops cutaneous hyperplasia and specific autoantibodies, like humans affected by scleroderma. The autoantibodies produced in the tight-skin mouse are encoded primarily by heavy-chain variable (VH) genes from the J558 family. To understand the genetic basis of production of autoantibodies, we have analyzed the structure of J558 genes encoding these autoantibodies. The results showed that J558 genes encoding these antibodies were not derived from a selected germ-line gene(s) or a single subfamily but were derived from genes belonging to diverse J558 subfamilies. However, two prototype VH genes representing two new subfamilies were found to be repeatedly expressed in their germ-line form in eight independent clones. Autoantibodies with distinct specificities appear to be generated by pairing of similar/identical VH genes with different V kappa genes derived from the same or different families. Fourteen of 18 autoantibodies shared a conserved heptapeptide sequence motif, YNEKFKG, in the second complementarity-determining region of heavy chains. Usage of germ-line genes from diverse J558 subfamilies bearing a common motif to encode autoantibodies suggests a regulatory role for this motif. Thus, selection and expansion of the autoreactive B-cell repertoire in the tight-skin mouse appear to be VH-gene mediated. The frequency of N nucleotide addition at diversity-joining (D-JH) junctions was lower, whereas the frequency of usage of the DFL16 segment was higher. Finally, in contrast to normal and other autoimmune mouse strains, the frequencies of D-D fusions and D inversions were higher in tight-skin mouse total immunoglobulin as well as autoantibody repertoires.

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