The targeting of somatic hypermutation

Semin Immunol. 1996 Jun;8(3):159-68. doi: 10.1006/smim.1996.0020.


Somatic hypermutation does not occur randomly within immunoglobulin V genes but, rather, is preferentially targeted to certain nucleotide positions (hot spots) and away from others (cold spots). Cold spots often coincide with residues essential for V gene folding. Hotspots, which appear to be strategically located to favour affinity maturation, are most frequently located in the CDRs (particularly CDR1) though conserved hotspots are also found at the base of FR3. Hotspots are in part created by local DNA sequence and the strong biases of codon usage in V genes indicate that the genes have evolved such that somatic hypermutation is targeted to those parts of the V where it is likely to prove most useful. These features of mutational hotspots and biased codon usage are also evident in V genes of lower animals suggesting that diversification by strategic targeting of non-templated mutation may have evolved early in antigen receptor evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Codon
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mutation*


  • Codon
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region