Reexpression of the V(D)J recombinase-activating genes RAG1 and RAG2 in germinal center B cells creates the potential for immunoglobulin gene rearrangement and the generation of new antigen receptor specificities. Intermediate products of V(D)J recombination are abundant in a subset of germinal center B Cells, demonstrating that the K immunoglobulin light-chain locus becomes a substrate for renewed V(D)J recombinase activity. This recombinationally active cell compartment contains many heavy-chain VDJ rearrangements that encode low-affinity or nonfunctional antibody. In germinal centers, secondary V(D)J recombination may be induced by diminished binding to antigen ligands, thereby limiting abrupt changes in receptor specificity to B cells that are usually eliminated from the germinal center reaction. This restriction preserves efficient antigen-driven selection in germinal centers while allowing for saltations in the somatic evolution of B cells.
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