Somatic hypermutation of immunoglobulin genes: lessons from proliferating cell nuclear antigenK164R mutant mice

Petra Langerak, Peter H.L Krijger, Marinus R Heideman, Paul C.M van den Berk, Heinz Jacobs


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) encircles DNA as a ring-shaped homotrimer and, by tethering DNA polymerases to their template, PCNA serves as a critical replication factor. In contrast to high-fidelity DNA polymerases, the activation of low-fidelity translesion synthesis (TLS) DNA polymerases seems to require damage-inducible monoubiquitylation (Ub) of PCNA at lysine residue 164 (PCNA-Ub). TLS polymerases can tolerate DNA damage, i.e. they can replicate across DNA lesions. The lack of proofreading activity, however, renders TLS highly mutagenic. The advantage is that B cells use mutagenic TLS to introduce somatic mutations in immunoglobulin (Ig) genes to generate high-affinity antibodies. Given the critical role of PCNA-Ub in activating TLS and the role of TLS in establishing somatic mutations in immunoglobulin genes, we analysed the mutation spectrum of somatically mutated immunoglobulin genes in B cells from PCNAK164R knock-in mice. A 10-fold reduction in A/T mutations is associated with a compensatory increase in G/C mutations—a phenotype similar to Polη and mismatch repair-deficient B cells. Mismatch recognition, PCNA-Ub and Polη probably act within one pathway to establish the majority of mutations at template A/T. Equally relevant, the G/C mutator(s) seems largely independent of PCNAK164 modification.



  • These authors contributed equally to the study.

  • One contribution of 17 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘DNA deamination in immunity, virology and cancer’.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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