Immunoglobulin heavy-chain switching may be directed by prior induction of transcripts from constant-region genes

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Publication Date


Document Type



B-Lymphocytes; Gene Rearrangement, B-Lymphocyte, Heavy Chain; Hela Cells; Humans; Immunoglobulin A; Immunoglobulin Constant Regions; Immunoglobulin E; Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains; Immunoglobulin M; *Immunoglobulin Switch Region; Interleukin-4; Interleukin-5; Interleukins; RNA; Recombinant Proteins; *Transcription, Genetic


Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Women's Studies


Immunoglobulin heavy-chain switching is effected by a DNA recombination event that replaces the C mu gene with one of the other heavy-chain constant-region (CH) genes located 3' to the C mu gene. How the specificity of this event is controlled is unknown. However, it has been shown that IgM+ cells capable of switching to specific isotypes have the corresponding unrearranged CH genes in an accessible or active chromatin state, as demonstrated by the fact that these specific CH genes are hypomethylated and are transcriptionally active. We now report that the RNAs transcribed from specific unrearranged CH genes are induced prior to switching under conditions that promote switching to these specific CH genes. For example, we find that bacterial lipopolysaccharide, which induces the IgM+ cell line I.29 mu to switch to IgA, induces transcripts from the germ-line C alpha gene(s) in I.29 mu cells prior to switch recombination. Two preparations of T-cell lymphokines (recombinant interleukin 4 and supernatant from the T-cell line 2.19, which contains interleukins 4 and 5) that promote switching to specific isotypes by lipopolysaccharide-treated spleen cells induce transcripts from the corresponding germ-line CH genes prior to expression of the new isotypes. For example, interleukin 4, which appears to be necessary for switching to IgE in vitro and in vivo, induces within 2 days large increases in germ-line C epsilon transcripts in lipopolysaccharide-treated spleen cells and in I.29 mu cells. The most straightforward interpretation of our data is that these lymphokines direct switching to specific isotypes by activating specific CH genes, making them accessible to the putative switch recombinase.

DOI of Published Version



Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Oct;85(20):7704-8.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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