Endonuclease G plays a role in immunoglobulin class switch DNA recombination by introducing double-strand breaks in switch regions

Hong Zan, Jinsong Zhang, Ahmed Al-Qahtani, Egest J. Pone, Clayton A. White, Derrik Lee, Leman Yel, Thach Mai, Paolo Casali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Immunoglobulin (Ig) class switch DNA recombination (CSR) is the crucial mechanism diversifying the biological effector functions of antibodies. Generation of double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs), particularly staggered DSBs, in switch (S) regions of the upstream and downstream CH genes involved in the specific recombination process is an absolute requirement for CSR. Staggered DSBs would be generated through deamination of dCs on opposite DNA strands by activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), subsequent dU deglycosylation by uracil DNA glycosylase (Ung) and abasic site nicking by apurinic/apyrimidic endonuclease. However, consistent with the findings that significant amounts of DSBs can be detected in the IgH locus in the absence of AID or Ung, we have shown in human and mouse B cells that AID generates staggered DSBs not only by cleaving intact double-strand DNA, but also by processing blunt DSB ends generated in an AID-independent fashion. How these AID-independent DSBs are generated is still unclear. It is possible that S region DNA may undergo AID-independent cleavage by structure-specific nucleases, such as endonuclease G (EndoG). EndoG is an abundant nuclease in eukaryotic cells. It cleaves single and double-strand DNA, primarily at dG/dC residues, the preferential sites of DSBs in S region DNA. We show here that EndoG can localize to the nucleus of B cells undergoing CSR and binds to S region DNA, as shown by specific chromatin immunoprecipitation assays. Using knockout EndoG-/- mice and EndoG-/- B cells, we found that EndoG deficiency resulted in a two-fold reduction in CSR in vivo and in vitro, as demonstrated by reduced cell surface IgG1, IgG2a, IgG3 and IgA, reduced secreted IgG1, reduced circle Iγ1-Cμ, Iγ3-Cμ, Ie{open}-Cμ, Iα-Cμ transcripts, post-recombination Iμ-Cγ1, Iμ-Cγ3, Iμ-Ce{open} and Iμ-Cα transcripts. In addition to reduced CSR, EndoG-/- mice showed a significantly altered spectrum of mutations in IgH JH-iEμ DNA. Impaired CSR in EndoG-/- B cells did not stem from altered B cell proliferation or apoptosis. Rather, it was associated with significantly reduced frequency of DSBs. Thus, our findings determine a role for EndoG in the generation of S region DSBs and CSR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)610-622
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Activation-induced cytidine deaminase
  • Antibody
  • B cell
  • Class switch DNA recombination
  • Double-strand DNA break
  • Endonuclease G
  • Immunoglobulin
  • Knockout mice
  • Switch region

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology


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