|dc.description.abstract||Recombination Activating Genes (RAGs) orchestrate the process called V (D) J recombination, which enables the vertebrate adaptive immune system to specifically recognize millions of antigens. During this recombination process, V (variable), D (diversity) and J (joining) gene segments of antibody (B cell receptor) and TCR (T cell receptor) join by different possible combinations to generate antigen receptor diversity. This unique site specific recombination process is actuated by lymphoid specific proteins called RAG1 and RAG2 (RAGs or RAG complex). RAGs recognize a conserved sequence motif flanking the above subexons called Recombination Signal Sequence (RSS). There are two types of RSS known as 12-RSS and 23-RSS, where a conserved heptamer sequence and nonameric sequence is separated by 12 or 23 bp, respectively. RAGs specifically bind to RSS by RAG1 Nonamer Binding Domain (NBD) and generate nicks which are converted to DSBs via a hairpin intermediate and finally repaired by Non-Homologous DNA End Joining (NHEJ), a major DSB repair pathway in eukaryotes. Thus, RAGs act as a sequence specific endonuclease, and is unique to higher eukaryotes. Therefore, reduced or loss of RAG activity could result in immune deficiency syndromes like Omenn Syndrome (OS) and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID).
Apart from acting as a sequence specific nuclease, RAGs have been shown to cleave on altered DNA structures like mismatches (bubbles), hairpins, flaps, gaps, triplexes and 3’ overhangs. This structure specific nuclease activity is implicated in causing genomic instability in B and T cells, particularly leading to generation of chromosomal translocations in certain lymphoid cancers. However, unlike the sequence- specific cleavage activity, this novel property of RAGs is poorly understood.
Structure-specific nuclease activity of RAGs was characterized by using heteroduplex DNA substrate containing bubble region. RAG proteins were overexpressed and purified from human cell line and used for the assay. Results showed that RAGs cleave different bubble substrates with different efficiency. The role of DNA sequence at single-stranded region of heteroduplex DNA on RAG cleavage was investigated by synthesizing the substrate DNA having either adenineguanine/ thymine/ cytosine in the bubble sequence. Interestingly, efficient RAG cleavage was observed only when cytosines were present at single-stranded region, while thymine bubbles were cleaved with much lower efficiency. Adenine and guanine containing bubbles were not cleaved by RAGs. This was the first observation showing sequence specificity during structure-specific nuclease activity of RAGs. Besides, it was observed that RAG cleavage on bubbles with cytosines resulted in DSB formation, which is essential for generation of chromosomal translocations. Further, such specificity and cytosine preference was observed, even when RAGs acted on other altered DNA substrates like hairpin loops, 3’ overhangs and gaps. When the role of flanking duplex region on RAG cleavage was tested, only the 5’ duplex nucleotide was critical for RAG cleavage reaction and cytosine was the most preferred nucleotide. By systematic mutation of bubble region, it was observed that the two cytosines present at the double strand-single strand junction are critical for RAG cleavage. A single nucleotide bubble (mismatch) with cytosines was cleaved by RAGs with low but detectable efficiency. A bubble with at least 2 nt length possessing cytosine was cleaved with higher efficiency resulting in both single-stranded nicks and DSBs. Based on these studies, “C(d)C(s)C(s)” was proposed as a novel recognition motif for RAG cleavage, on altered DNA structures, where“d” and “s” represent double- and single-strand region, respectively.
To be targeted by RAGs in vivo, the altered DNA substrates have to compete with RSS, the physiological substrate. It is not known whether such structures will be cleaved by RAGs, when present along with RSS. Besides, the regulation of the both structure and sequence specific nuclease activities are not studied. To address the above questions, RAG cleavage on bubble substrates was performed in presence of RSS either in cis or trans configuration. Results showed that both bubble substrates and RSS were cleaved with similar efficiency by RAGs. In fact, they can compete out each other in a concentration dependent manner. When kinetics of RSS and bubble cleavage were performed, RSS cleavage reaction was faster and saturated within 10-15 min, while bubbles cleavage started slow and went on increasing with time. This difference in kinetics persisted when both substrates were present together. This could be a regulatory mechanism for targeting RAGs to RSS sites and limiting bubble cleavage which can be deleterious to cells. HMGB1, a DNA binding protein which is shown to enhance RSS binding and synapsis, does not affect RAG action on bubble substrates. RAG postcleavage complex is formed during V(D)J recombination process where RAGs remain bound to cleaved RSS after cleavage, which limits further RAG action on other sites. Such cleavage complex was not detected on bubble substrates, which suggests that after cleavage RAGs were not associated to DSBs of bubble cleavage. Finally, the nonamer binding domain of RAG1 involved in RSS binding in V(D)J recombination, was found to be dispensable for the structure-specific nuclease activity and it appears that RAGs bind to bubble substrates using a different domain.
In summary, in this study, the structure-specific nuclease activity of RAGs was characterized. A novel sequence motif that can regulate this activity of RAGs was identified. Though altered structures can be equally favored substrates as RSS, differences in reaction kinetics, cleavage complex formation and separate DNA binding domains regulate RAG cleavage, when it acts as a structure-specific nuclease. Thus, this study may help in the better understanding of RAG induced genomic instabilities in lymphoid tissues.||en_US