Within the lymphocyte lineages, restriction of immunoglobulin V(D)J recombination to B cells and T cell receptor (TCR) recombination to T cells is governed by a myriad of epigenetic mechanisms that control the chromatin accessibility of these loci to the Rag recombinase machinery in a lineage and developmental stage-specific manner. These mechanisms operate both locally at individual gene segments, and globally over large chromatin domains in these enormous multigene loci. In this review we will explore the established and emerging roles of three aspects of epigenetic regulation that contribute to large-scale control of the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus in B cells: non-coding RNA transcription, regulatory elements, and nuclear organization. Recent conceptual and technological advances have produced a paradigm shift in our thinking about how these components regulate gene expression in general and V(D)J recombination in particular.
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