The RAG recombinase (RAG1/2) plays an essential role in adaptive immunity by mediating V(D)J recombination in developing lymphocytes. In contrast, aberrant RAG1/2 activity promotes lymphocyte malignancies by causing chromosomal translocations and DNA deletions at cancer genes. RAG1/2 can also induce genomic DNA insertions by transposition and trans-V(D)J recombination, but only few such putative events have been documented in vivo. We used next-generation sequencing techniques to examine chromosomal rearrangements in primary murine B cells and discovered that RAG1/2 causes aberrant insertions by releasing cleaved antibody gene fragments that subsequently reintegrate into DNA breaks induced on a heterologous chromosome. We confirmed that RAG1/2 also mobilizes genomic DNA into independent physiological breaks by identifying similar insertions in human lymphoma and leukemia. Our findings reveal a novel RAG1/2-mediated insertion pathway distinct from DNA transposition and trans-V(D)J recombination that destabilizes the genome and shares features with reported oncogenic DNA insertions.
- Submitted: 28 September 2016
- Revision received 9 November 2016
- Accepted: 12 December 2016
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