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Year: 2009  |  Volume: 15  |  Issue: 6  |  Page No.: 1021 - 1028

Equal transcription rates of productively and nonproductively rearranged immunoglobulin {micro} heavy chain alleles in a pro-B cell line

A. B Eberle, K Herrmann, H. M Jack and O. Muhlemann    


During B cell maturation, immunoglobulin (Ig) genes frequently acquire premature translation-termination codons (PTCs) as a result of the somatic rearrangement of V, D, and J gene segments. However, it is essential for a B lymphocyte to produce only one kind of antibody and therefore to ensure that the heavy and light chain polypeptides are expressed exclusively from the corresponding functional alleles, whereas no protein is made from the nonproductively rearranged alleles. At the post-transcriptional level, a well-studied mRNA quality control mechanism, termed nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), recognizes and degrades PTC-containing mRNAs in a translation-dependent manner. In addition, transcriptional silencing of PTC-containing Ig-µ and Ig- heavy chain reporter genes was observed in HeLa cells. To investigate the silencing of nonproductively rearranged Ig genes in a more physiological context, we analyzed a monoclonal line of immortalized murine pro-B cells harboring one productively (PTC–) and one nonproductively (PTC+) rearranged Ig-µ heavy chain allele. We show that the steady-state abundance of PTC+ mRNA was ~40-fold lower when compared to that of the PTC– mRNA. However, both the PTC+ and PTC– allele seemed to be equally well transcribed since the abundances of PTC+ and PTC– pre-mRNA were very similar and chromatin immunoprecipitations revealed comparable occupancy of RNA polymerase II and acetylated histone H3 on both alleles. Altogether, we found no evidence for transcriptional silencing of the PTC+ allele in this pro-B cell line; hence, the efficient down-regulation of the PTC+ Ig-µ mRNA results entirely from NMD.

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