Chromatin topology and the regulation of antigen receptor assembly

Annu Rev Immunol. 2012;30:337-56. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-020711-075003. Epub 2012 Jan 3.


During an organism's ontogeny and in the adult, each B and T lymphocyte generates a unique antigen receptor, thereby creating the organism's ability to respond to a vast number of different antigens. The antigen receptor loci are organized into distinct regions that contain multiple variable (V), diversity (D), and/or joining (J) and constant (C) coding elements that are scattered across large genomic regions. In this review, we discuss the epigenetic modifications that take place in the different antigen receptor loci, the chromatin structure adopted by the antigen receptor loci to allow recombination of elements separated by large genomic distances, and the relationship between epigenetics and chromatin structure and how they relate to the generation of antigen receptor diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / chemistry*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genetic Variation / immunology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Antigen / chemistry
  • Receptors, Antigen / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • V(D)J Recombination


  • Chromatin
  • Receptors, Antigen