In activated B lymphocytes, AID initiates antibody variable (V) exon somatic hypermutation (SHM) for affinity maturation in germinal centers (GCs) and IgH switch (S) region DNA breaks (DSBs) for class-switch recombination (CSR). To resolve long-standing questions, we have developed an in vivo assay to study AID targeting of passenger sequences replacing a V exon. First, we find AID targets SHM hotspots within V exon and S region passengers at similar frequencies and that the normal SHM process frequently generates deletions, indicating that SHM and CSR employ the same mechanism. Second, AID mutates targets in diverse non-Ig passengers in GC B cells at levels similar to those of V exons, definitively establishing the V exon location as "privileged" for SHM. Finally, Peyer's patch GC B cells generate a reservoir of V exons that are highly mutated before selection for affinity maturation. We discuss the implications of these findings for harnessing antibody diversification mechanisms.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.