Two sets of apparently conflicting data on the genes coding for the variable region are being accumulated. One suggests that the sets of nucleotides coding for the framework segments of immunoglobulin light and heavy (VL and VH) chains assort independently and are therefore germ-line minigenes which, together with sets of nucleotides coding for the complementarity-determining regions (CDR) or segments assemble to form complete variable (V)-region genes (15, 16, 33). The other, based on the findings with clones from 12-d-old embryo and adult mouse coding for V-regions, infer that the first three frameworks and the three complementarity-determining segments are already assembled as germ-line V-genes (17-21). It is now generally accepted that the J segment, which in the one instance sequenced (21) is made up of nucleotides coding for framework (FR)4 plus two residues of CDR3, is a minigene. An examination of sequences of human, mouse, and rabbit V-regions, assuming the latter hypothesis, indicates that individual framework sets would have to be present in many copies. The FR2 segment found in one human, 20 mice, and 13 rabbits would have to be present in at least 10/14 copies in the NZB, and 5/6 in the BALB/c mouse, and 12/13 in the rabbit. The X-ray crystallographic data show this region to be a loop, projecting out from the V-domain, capable of accommodating many substiutions and 12 and 8 alternative sequences for this FR2 segment have been found in mouse and rabbit VK chains with substitutions possible at 13 of the 15 positions. These alternative sequences occur much less frequently than the preserved FR2 segment. Thus, there is no basis in the protein structure to account for evolutionary stability of this FR2 segment if it occurs in so many copies in germ-line genes coding for residues 1-96, but its stability is easily explained if it were coded for by a separate germ-line minigene present as a single copy; the alternative forms could then have arisen by duplication and mutation of this minigene. Somatic assembly of the minigene segments for the three framework and three complementarity-determining segments during differentiation would account completely for our assortment data from which FR4 was inferred to be a minigene.

This content is only available as a PDF.