Palindromic Nucleotide Analysis in Human T Cell Receptor Rearrangements

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52250. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052250. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

Abstract

Diversity of T cell receptor (TCR) genes is primarily generated by nucleotide insertions upon rearrangement from their germ line-encoded V, D and J segments. Nucleotide insertions at V-D and D-J junctions are random, but some small subsets of these insertions are exceptional, in that one to three base pairs inversely repeat the sequence of the germline DNA. These short complementary palindromic sequences are called P nucleotides. We apply the ImmunoSeq deep-sequencing assay to the third complementarity determining region (CDR3) of the β chain of T cell receptors, and use the resulting data to study P nucleotides in the repertoire of naïve and memory CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cells. We estimate P nucleotide distributions in a cross section of healthy adults and different T cell subtypes. We show that P nucleotide frequency in all T cell subtypes ranges from 1% to 2%, and that the distribution is highly biased with respect to the coding end of the gene segment. Classification of observed palindromic sequences into P nucleotides using a maximum conditional probability model shows that single base P nucleotides are very rare in VDJ recombination; P nucleotides are primarily two bases long. To explore the role of P nucleotides in thymic selection, we compare P nucleotides in productive and non-productive sequences of CD8(+) naïve T cells. The naïve CD8(+) T cell clones with P nucleotides are more highly expanded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inverted Repeat Sequences / genetics*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*

Substances

  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell

Grant support

This study was supported by the Ellison Medical Foundation New Scholar Award. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.