A role for DNA polymerase mu in the emerging DJH rearrangements of the postgastrulation mouse embryo

Mol Cell Biol. 2009 Mar;29(5):1266-75. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01518-08. Epub 2008 Dec 22.


The molecular complexes involved in the nonhomologous end-joining process that resolves recombination-activating gene (RAG)-induced double-strand breaks and results in V(D)J gene rearrangements vary during mammalian ontogeny. In the mouse, the first immunoglobulin gene rearrangements emerge during midgestation periods, but their repertoires have not been analyzed in detail. We decided to study the postgastrulation DJ(H) joints and compare them with those present in later life. The embryo DJ(H) joints differed from those observed in perinatal life by the presence of short stretches of nontemplated (N) nucleotides. Whereas most adult N nucleotides are introduced by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT), the embryo N nucleotides were due to the activity of the homologous DNA polymerase mu (Polmu), which was widely expressed in the early ontogeny, as shown by analysis of Polmu(-/-) embryos. Based on its DNA-dependent polymerization ability, which TdT lacks, Polmu also filled in small sequence gaps at the coding ends and contributed to the ligation of highly processed ends, frequently found in the embryo, by pairing to internal microhomology sites. These findings show that Polmu participates in the repair of early-embryo, RAG-induced double-strand breaks and subsequently may contribute to preserve the genomic stability and cellular homeostasis of lymphohematopoietic precursors during development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Gastrulation / genetics*
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Immunoglobulin Joining Region / genetics*
  • Mice


  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Immunoglobulin Joining Region
  • DNA polymerase mu
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase