Induction of a:T mutations is dependent on cellular environment but independent of mutation frequency and target gene location.


Based on its substrate specificity, activation-induced cytidine deaminase can directly induce C:G mutations in Ig genes. However the origin of A:T mutations, which occur in a similar proportion in germinal center (GC) B cells, is unclear. Genetic evidence suggests that the induction of A:T mutations requires the components of the mismatch repair system and DNA polymerase eta (POLH). We found that fibroblasts and GC B cells expressed similar levels of the mismatch repair components, but nonetheless the fibroblasts failed to generate a significant proportion of A:T mutations in a GFP reporter gene even after POLH overexpression. To investigate whether the ability to generate A:T mutations is dependent on the cellular environment (i.e., GC B cell or fibroblast) or the target gene (i.e., Ig or GFP), we developed a mutation detection system in a human GC-like cell line. We introduced a GFP gene with a premature stop codon into Ramos cells and compared the activation-induced cytidine deaminase-induced mutations in the endogenous V(H) and the transgenic GFP genes. Remarkably, a high proportion of A:T mutations was induced in both genes. Ectopic expression of POLH did not further increase the proportion of A:T mutations but diminished the strand bias of these mutations that is normally observed in V(H) genes. Intriguingly, the total mutation frequency in the GFP gene was consistently one-fifth of that in the V(H) gene. These results demonstrate that the ability to generate A:T mutations is dependent on the GC B cell environment but independent of the mutation frequency and target gene location.




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