[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Two lymphoid cell-specific proteins, RAG1 and RAG2 (RAG), initiate V(D)J recombination by assembling a synaptic complex with recombination signal sequences (RSSs) abutting two different antigen receptor gene coding segments, and then introducing a DNA double strand break at the end of each RSS. Despite the biological importance of this system, the structure of the synaptic complex, and the RAG protein stoichiometry and arrangement of DNA within the synaptosome, remains poorly understood. Here we applied atomic force microscopy to directly visualize and characterize RAG synaptic complexes. We report that the pre-cleavage RAG synaptic complex contains about twice the protein content as a RAG complex bound to a single RSS, with a calculated mass consistent with a pair of RAG heterotetramers. In the synaptic complex, the RSSs are predominantly oriented in a side-by-side configuration with no DNA strand crossover. The mass of the synaptic complex, and the conditions under which it is formed in vitro, favors an association model of assembly in which isolated RAG-RSS complexes undergo synapsis mediated by RAG protein-protein interactions. The replacement of Mg2+ cations with Ca2+ leads to a dramatic change in protein stoichiometry for all RAG-RSS complexes, suggesting that the cation composition profoundly influences the type of complex assembled.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 07/2009; 284(31):20956-65. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antigen receptor genes are assembled by a site-specific DNA rearrangement process called V(D)J recombination. This process proceeds through two distinct phases: a cleavage phase in which the RAG1 and RAG2 proteins introduce DNA double-strand breaks at antigen receptor gene segments, and a joining phase in which the resulting DNA breaks are processed and repaired via the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) repair pathway. Genetic and biochemical evidence suggest that the RAG proteins play an active role in guiding the repair of DNA breaks introduced during V(D)J recombination to the NHEJ pathway. However, evidence for specific association between the RAG proteins and any of the factors involved in NHEJ remains elusive. Here we present evidence that two components of the NHEJ pathway, Ku70 and Ku80, interact with full-length RAG1, providing a biochemical link between the two phases of V(D)J recombination.
Nucleic Acids Research 05/2008; 36(6):2060-72. · 8.28 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: RAG1 and RAG2 initiate V(D)J recombination by assembling a synaptic complex with a pair of antigen receptor gene segments through interactions with their flanking recombination signal sequence (RSS), and then introducing a DNA double-strand break at each RSS, separating it from the adjacent coding segment. While the RAG proteins are sufficient to mediate RSS binding and cleavage in vitro, these activities are stimulated by the architectural DNA binding and bending factors HMGB1 and HMGB2. Two previous studies (Bergeron et al., 2005, and Dai et al., 2005) came to different conclusions regarding whether only one of the two DNA binding domains of HMGB1 is sufficient to stimulate RAG-mediated binding and cleavage of naked DNA in vitro. Here we test whether this apparent discrepancy is attributed to the choice of divalent metal ion and the concentration of HMGB1 used in the cleavage reaction.
We show here that single HMG-box domains of HMGB1 stimulate RAG-mediated RSS cleavage in a concentration-dependent manner in the presence of Mn2+, but not Mg2+. Interestingly, the inability of a single HMG-box domain to stimulate RAG-mediated RSS cleavage in Mg2+ is overcome by the addition of partner RSS to promote synapsis. Furthermore, we show that mutant forms of HMGB1 which otherwise fail to stimulate RAG-mediated RSS cleavage in Mg2+ can be substantially rescued when Mg2+ is replaced with Mn2+.
The conflicting data published previously in two different laboratories can be substantially explained by the choice of divalent metal ion and abundance of HMGB1 in the cleavage reaction. The observation that single HMG-box domains can promote RAG-mediated 23-RSS cleavage in Mg2+ in the presence, but not absence, of partner RSS suggests that synaptic complex assembly in vitro is associated with conformational changes that alter how the RAG and/or HMGB1 proteins bind and bend DNA in a manner that functionally replaces the role of one of the HMG-box domains in RAG-HMGB1 complexes assembled on a single RSS.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A critical step in V(D)J recombination is the synapsis of complementary (12/23) recombination signal sequences (RSSs) by the RAG1 and RAG2 proteins to generate the paired complex (PC). Using a facilitated ligation assay and substrates that vary the helical phasing of the RSSs, we provide evidence that one particular geometric configuration of the RSSs is favored in the PC. To investigate this configuration further, we used fluorescent resonance energy transfer (FRET) to detect the synapsis of fluorescently labeled RSS oligonucleotides. FRET requires an appropriate 12/23 RSS pair, a divalent metal ion, and high-mobility-group protein HMGB1 or HMGB2. Energy transfer between the RSSs was detected with all 12/23 RSS end positions of the fluorescent probes but was not detected when probes were placed on the two ends of the same RSS. Energy transfer was confirmed to originate from the PC by using an in-gel FRET assay. The results argue against a unique planar configuration of the RSSs in the PC and are most easily accommodated by models in which synapsed 12- and 23-RSSs are bent and cross one another, with implications for the organization of the RAG proteins and the DNA substrates at the time of cleavage.
Molecular and Cellular Biology 08/2007; 27(13):4745-58. · 5.37 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: RAG-1 and RAG-2 initiate V(D)J recombination by cleaving DNA at recombination signal sequences through sequential nicking and transesterification reactions to yield blunt signal ends and coding ends terminating in a DNA hairpin structure. Ubiquitous DNA repair factors then mediate the rejoining of broken DNA. V(D)J recombination adheres to the 12/23 rule, which limits rearrangement to signal sequences bearing different lengths of DNA (12 or 23 base pairs) between the conserved heptamer and nonamer sequences to which the RAG proteins bind. Both RAG proteins have been subjected to extensive mutagenesis, revealing residues required for one or both cleavage steps or involved in the DNA end-joining process. Gain-of-function RAG mutants remain unidentified. Here, we report a novel RAG-1 mutation, E649A, that supports elevated cleavage activity in vitro by preferentially enhancing hairpin formation. DNA binding activity and the catalysis of other DNA strand transfer reactions, such as transposition, are not substantially affected by the RAG-1 mutation. However, 12/23-regulated synapsis does not strongly stimulate the cleavage activity of a RAG complex containing E649A RAG-1, unlike its wild-type counterpart. Interestingly, wild-type and E649A RAG-1 support similar levels of cleavage and recombination of plasmid substrates containing a 12/23 pair of signal sequences in cell culture; however, E649A RAG-1 supports about threefold more cleavage and recombination than wild-type RAG-1 on 12/12 plasmid substrates. These data suggest that the E649A RAG-1 mutation may interfere with the RAG proteins' ability to sense 12/23-regulated synapsis.
Molecular and Cellular Biology 07/2006; 26(12):4712-28. · 5.37 Impact Factor