, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 105-116
Date: 31 Mar 2009

The roles of the RAG1 and RAG2 “non-core” regions in V(D)J recombination and lymphocyte development

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Abstract

The enormous repertoire of the vertebrate specific immune system relies on the rearrangement of discrete gene segments into intact antigen receptor genes during the early stages of B-and T-cell development. This V(D)J recombination is initiated by a lymphoid-specific recombinase comprising the RAG1 and RAG2 proteins, which introduces double-strand breaks in the DNA adjacent to the coding segments. Much of the biochemical research into V(D)J recombination has focused on truncated or “core” fragments of RAG1 and RAG2, which lack approximately one third of the amino acids from each. However, genetic analyses of SCID and Omenn syndrome patients indicate that residues outside the cores are essential to normal immune development. This is in agreement with the striking degree of conservation across all vertebrate classes in certain non-core domains. Work from multiple laboratories has shed light on activities resident within these domains, including ubiquitin ligase activity and KPNA1 binding by the RING finger domain of RAG1 and the recognition of specific chromatin modifications as well as phosphoinositide binding by the PHD module of RAG2. In addition, elements outside of the cores are necessary for regulated protein expression and turnover. Here the current state of knowledge is reviewed regarding the non-core regions of RAG1 and RAG2 and how these findings contribute to our broader understanding of recombination.