Kodgire P, Mukkawar P, Ratnam S, Martin TE, Storb U
Somatic hypermutation (SHM) of Ig genes is initiated by the activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), and requires target gene transcription. We previously proposed that AID may associate with the RNA polymerase II (Pol). Here, to determine aspects of the transcription process required for SHM, we knocked-in a transcription terminator into an Ig gene variable region in DT40 chicken B cell line. We found that the human β-globin terminator was an efficient inhibitor of downstream transcription in these cells. The terminator reduced mutations downstream of the poly(A) signal, suggesting that the process of transcription is essential for efficient SHM and that AID has better access to its target when Pol is in the elongating rather than terminating mode. Mutations upstream of the poly(A) site were almost doubled in the active terminator clones compared with an inactivated terminator, and this region showed more single-stranded DNA, indicating that Pol pausing assists SHM. Moreover, the nontranscribed DNA strand was the preferred SHM target upstream of the active terminator. Pol pausing during poly(A) site recognition may facilitate persistence of negative supercoils, exposing the coding single strand and possibly allowing the nascent RNA intermittent reannealing with the template strand, for prolonged access of AID.