Restricted Utilization of Germ-Line VH Genes in Rabbits: Implications for Inheritance of VH Allotypes and Generation of Antibody Diversity

  • Katherine L. Knight
  • Robert S. Becker
  • Luisa A. Dipietro
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 292)


The presence of inherited VH region allotypic specificities, al, a2 or a3, on nearly all rabbit immunoglobulins has presented a paradox. We know the germline contains hundreds of VH genes, and if we assume that most of these are used in the generation of antibody diversity, then we must ask how have the a allotype-encoding regions been maintained over time? On the other hand, if we assume that only one (or a small number) of these VH gene(s) is (are) used in VDJ gene rearrangements, then, how is antibody diversity generated? To address these questions, we have cloned and determined the nucleotide sequence of the 3′-most germ-line VH genes from the al, a2 and a3 chromosomes and shown in each case that the 3′-most H gene, VHl-al, VHl-a2, or VHl-a3, encodes an al, a2 or a3 VH region, respectively. Analysis of rearranged VD1 genes from leukemic B cells showed that VH1 was utilized in these rearrangements. Based on these data, we propose that the allelic inheritance of the VH allotypes is explained by the preferential usage of the VH1 gene in VDJ rearrangements. Support for this hypothesis was obtained from analysis of the mutant rabbit Alicia in which most serum Ig molecules do not have VHa allotypic specificities, but instead have so-called VHa-negative Ig molecules. In this rabbit, VH1 is not expressed as it has been deleted. Analysis of cDNA clones from spleen of Alicia rabbits suggests that the expressed VHa-negative molecules also are encoded by a single germline VH gene. Thus, we suggest that nearly all rabbit VH regions are encoded by one to two germline VH genes and that antibody diversity is generated primarily by somatic hypermutation and gene conversion.


Cosmid Clone Cosmid Library Antibody Diversity Transgenic Rabbit Heavy Chain Variable Region 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine L. Knight
    • 1
  • Robert S. Becker
    • 1
  • Luisa A. Dipietro
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Microbiology, Stritch School of MedicineLoyola University ChicagoMaywoodUSA
  2. 2.Department of PathologyNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

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