V(DD)J recombination is an important and evolutionarily conserved mechanism for generating antibodies with unusually long CDR3s

Yana Safonova, Pavel A. Pevzner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The V(DD)J recombination is currently viewed as an aberrant and inconsequential variant of the canonical V(D)J recombination. Moreover, since the classical 12/23 rule for the V(D)J recombination fails to explain the V(DD)J recombination, the molecular mechanism of tandem D-D fusions has remained unknown since they were discovered three decades ago. Revealing this mechanism is a biomedically important goal since tandem fusions contribute to broadly neutralizing antibodies with ultralong CDR3s. We reveal previously overlooked cryptic nonamers in the recombination signal sequences of human IGHD genes and demonstrate that these nonamers explain the vast majority of tandem fusions in human repertoires. We further reveal large clonal lineages formed by tandem fusions in antigen-stimulated immunosequencing data sets, suggesting that such data sets contain many more tandem fusions than previously thought and that about a quarter of large clonal lineages with unusually long CDR3s are generated through tandem fusions. Finally, we developed the SEARCH-D algorithm for identifying D genes in mammalian genomes and applied it to the recently completed Vertebrate Genomes Project assemblies, nearly doubling the number of mammalian species with known D genes. Our analysis revealed cryptic nonamers in RSSs of many mammalian genomes, thus demonstrating that the V(DD)J recombination is not a “bug” but an important feature preserved throughout mammalian evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1547-1558
Number of pages12
JournalGenome research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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