The genetic organization of the kappa and lambda light chain loci permits multiple, successive rearrangement attempts at each allele. Multiple rearrangements allow autoreactive B cells to escape clonal deletion by editing their surface receptors. Editing may also facilitate efficient B cell production by salvaging cells with nonproductive light chain (L chain) rearrangements. To study receptor editing of kappa L chains, we have characterized B cells from mice hemizygous for the targeted inactivation of kappa (JCkD/wt) which have an anti-DNA heavy chain transgene, 3H9. Hybridomas from JCkD/wt mice exhibited an increased frequency of rearrangements to downstream Jk segments (such as Jk5) compared with most surveys from normal mice, consistent with receptor editing by sequential kappa locus rearrangements in JCkD/wt. We observed an even higher frequency of rearrangements to Jk5 in 3H9 JCkD/wt animals compared with nontransgenic JCkD/wt, consistent with editing of autoreactive kappa in 3H9 JCkD/wt. We also recovered a large number of 3H9 JCkD/wt lines with Vk12/13-Jk5 rearrangements and could demonstrate by PCR and Southern analysis that up to three quarters of these lines underwent multiple kappa rearrangements. To investigate editing at the lambda locus, we used homozygous kappa-deficient animals (JCkD/JCkD and 3H9 JCkD/JCkD). The frequencies of V lambda 1 and V lambda 2 rearrangements among splenic hybridomas in 3H9 JCkD/JCkD were reduced by 75% whereas V lambda X was increased 5-10-fold, compared with nontransgenic JCkD/JCkD animals. This indicates that V lambda 1 and V lambda 2 are negatively regulated in 3H9 JCkD/JCkD, consistent with earlier studies that showed that the 3H9 heavy chain, in combination with lambda 1 binds DNA. As successive lambda rearrangements to V lambda X do not inactivate V lambda 1, the consequence of lambda editing in 3H9 JCkD/JCkD would be failed allelic exclusion at lambda. However, analysis of 18 3H9 JCkD/JCkD hybridomas with V lambda 1 and V lambda X DNA rearrangements revealed that most of these lines do not have productive lambda 1 rearrangements. In sum, both kappa and lambda loci undergo editing to recover from nonproductive rearrangement, but only kappa locus editing appears to play a substantial role in rescuing autoreactive B cells from deletion.

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