Affinity maturation and class switching of antibodies requires activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID)-dependent hypermutation of Ig V(D)J rearrangements and Ig S regions, respectively, in activated B cells. AID deaminates deoxycytidine bases in Ig genes, converting them into deoxyuridines. In V(D)J regions, subsequent excision of the deaminated bases by uracil-DNA glycosylase, or by mismatch repair, leads to further point mutation or gene conversion, depending on the species. In Ig S regions, nicking at the abasic sites produced by AID and uracil-DNA glycosylases results in staggered double-strand breaks, whose repair by nonhomologous end joining mediates Ig class switching. We have tested whether nonhomologous end joining also plays a role in V(D)J hypermutation using chicken DT40 cells deficient for Ku70 or the DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs). Inactivation of the Ku70 or DNA-PKcs genes in DT40 cells elevated the rate of AID-induced geneconversion as much as 5-fold. Furthermore, DNA-PKcs-deficiency appeared to reduce point mutation. The data provide strong evidence that double-strand DNA ends capable of recruiting the DNA-dependent protein kinasecomplex are important intermediates in Ig V gene conversion.
PLoS Biology, 5(4), 1-8.