The Role of Tcrb Subnuclear Positioning in V(D)J Recombination

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T cells and B cells each express unique antigen receptors used to identify, eliminate, and remember pathogens. These receptors are generated through a process known as V(D)J recombination, in which T cell receptor and B cell receptor gene loci undergo genomic recombination. Interestingly, recombination at certain genes is regulated so that a single in-frame rearrangement is present on only one allele per cell. This phenomenon, termed allelic exclusion, requires two steps. First, recombination can occur only on one allele at a time. In the second step, additional recombination must be prevented. Though the mechanism of the second step is well-understood, the first step remains poorly understood.

The first step of recombination necessitates that alleles rearrange one at a time. This could be achieved either through inefficient recombination or by halting further recombination in the presence of recombination. To separate these mechanisms, we analyzed recombination in nuclei unable to complete recombination. We found that rearrangement events accumulated at antigen receptor loci, suggesting that the presence of recombination does not stop additional rearrangements and asynchronous recombination likely results from inefficient recombination at both alleles.

Association with repressive subnuclear compartments has been proposed to reduce the recombination efficiency of allelically excluded antigen receptor loci. Of the alleleically excluded loci, Tcrb alleles are uniquely regulated during development. Other allelically excluded alleles are positioned at the transcriptionally-repressive nuclear periphery prior to recombination, and relocate to the nuclear interior at the stage in which they recombine. However Tcrb alleles remain highly associated with the nuclear periphery during rearrangement. Here we provide evidence that this peripheral subnuclear positioning of Tcrb alleles does suppress recombination. We go on to suggest that peripheral localization mediates the first step of allelic exclusion.

In search of the mechanism by which recombination is suppressed on peripheral Tcrb alleles, we investigated the subnuclear localization of a recombinase protein. Two recombinase proteins are required for recombination, one of which is recruited to actively transcribing (and more centrally located) DNA. Here we demonstrate that one recombinase protein is unable to localize to peripheral Tcrb alleles, potentially serving as the mechanism by which recombination is suppressed on peripheral alleles.






Chan, Elizabeth Ann Wilcox (2014). The Role of Tcrb Subnuclear Positioning in V(D)J Recombination. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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