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Cell. 1995 Nov 3;83(3):387-95.

Cleavage at a V(D)J recombination signal requires only RAG1 and RAG2 proteins and occurs in two steps.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-0540, USA.


Formation of double-strand breaks at recombination signal sequences is an early step in V(D)J recombination. Here we show that purified RAG1 and RAG2 proteins are sufficient to carry out this reaction. The cleavage reaction can be divided into two distinct steps. First, a nick is introduced at the 5' end of the signal sequence. The other strand is then broken, resulting in a hairpin structure at the coding end and a blunt, 5'-phosphorylated signal end. The hairpin is made as a direct consequence of the cleavage mechanism. Nicking and hairpin formation each require the presence of a signal sequence and both RAG proteins.

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