Recombination may occur in the absence of transcription in the immunoglobulin heavy chain recombination centre

Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Apr 17;48(7):3553-3566. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkaa108.


Developing B cells undergo V(D)J recombination to generate a vast repertoire of Ig molecules. V(D)J recombination is initiated by the RAG1/RAG2 complex in recombination centres (RCs), where gene segments become accessible to the complex. Whether transcription is the causal factor of accessibility or whether it is a side product of other processes that generate accessibility remains a controversial issue. At the IgH locus, V(D)J recombination is controlled by Eμ enhancer, which directs the transcriptional, epigenetic and recombinational events in the IgH RC. Deletion of Eμ enhancer affects both transcription and recombination, making it difficult to conclude if Eμ controls the two processes through the same or different mechanisms. By using a mouse line carrying a CpG-rich sequence upstream of Eμ enhancer and analyzing transcription and recombination at the single-cell level, we found that recombination could occur in the RC in the absence of detectable transcription, suggesting that Eμ controls transcription and recombination through distinct mechanisms. Moreover, while the normally Eμ-dependent transcription and demethylating activities were impaired, recruitment of chromatin remodeling complexes was unaffected. RAG1 was efficiently recruited, thus compensating for the defective transcription-associated recruitment of RAG2, and providing a mechanistic basis for RAG1/RAG2 assembly to initiate V(D)J recombination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • V(D)J Recombination*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • RAG-1 protein
  • Smarca4 protein, mouse
  • DNA Helicases