Illegitimate V(D)J recombination at oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes is implicated in formation of several T cell malignancies. Notch1 and Bcl11b, genes involved in developing T cell specification, selection, proliferation, and survival, were previously shown to contain hotspots for deletional illegitimate V(D)J recombination associated with radiation-induced thymic lymphoma. Interestingly, these deletions were also observed in wild-type animals. In this study, we conducted frequency, clonality, and junctional processing analyses of Notch1 and Bcl11b deletions during mouse development and compared results to published analyses of authentic V(D)J rearrangements at the T cell receptor beta (TCRβ) locus and illegitimate V(D)J deletions observed at the human, nonimmune HPRT1 locus not involved in T cell malignancies. We detect deletions in Notch1 and Bcl11b in thymic and splenic T cell populations, consistent with cells bearing deletions in the circulating lymphocyte pool. Deletions in thymus can occur in utero, increase in frequency between fetal and postnatal stages, are detected at all ages examined between fetal and 7 months, exhibit only limited clonality (contrasting with previous results in radiation-sensitive mouse strains), and consistent with previous reports are more frequent in Bcl11b, partially explained by relatively high Recombination Signal Information Content (RIC) scores. Deletion junctions in Bcl11b exhibit greater germline nucleotide loss, while in Notch1 palindromic (P) nucleotides are more abundant, although average P nucleotide length is similar for both genes and consistent with results at the TCRβ locus. Non-templated (N) nucleotide insertions appear to increase between fetal and postnatal stages for Notch1, consistent with normal terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) activity; however, neonatal Bcl11b junctions contain elevated levels of N insertions. Finally, contrasting with results at the HPRT1 locus, we find no obvious age or gender bias in junctional processing, and inverted repeats at recessed coding ends (Pr nucleotides) correspond mostly to single-base additions consistent with normal TdT activity.
Keywords: Bcl11b; Cryptic RSS; Illegitimate V(D)J recombination; Notch1; T cell development; T cell malignancies.
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