Role of Dot1L and H3K79 methylation in regulating somatic hypermutation of immunoglobulin genes

Zhi Duan, Linda B. Baughn, Xiaohua Wang, Yongwei Zhang, Varun Gupta, Thomas MacCarthy, Matthew D. Scharff, Guojun Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Somatic hypermutation (SHM) and class-switch recombination (CSR) of the immunoglobulin (Ig) genes allow B cells to make antibodies that protect us against a wide variety of pathogens. SHM is mediated by activation-induced deaminase (AID), occurs at a million times higher frequency than other mutations in the mammalian genome, and is largely restricted to the variable (V) and switch (S) regions of Ig genes. Using the Ramos human Burkitt’s lymphoma cell line, we find that H3K79me2/3 and its methyltransferase Dot1L are more abundant on the V region than on the constant (C) region, which does not undergo mutation. In primary naïve mouse B cells examined ex vivo, the H3K79me2/3 modification appears constitutively in the donor Sμ and is inducible in the recipient Sγ1 upon CSR stimulation. Knockout and inhibition of Dot1L in Ramos cells significantly reduces V region mutation and the abundance of H3K79me2/3 on the V region and is associated with a decrease of polymerase II (Pol II) and its S2 phosphorylated form at the IgH locus. Knockout of Dot1L also decreases the abundance of BRD4 and CDK9 (a subunit of the P-TEFb complex) on the V region, and this is accompanied by decreased nascent transcripts throughout the IgH gene. Treatment with JQ1 (inhibitor of BRD4) or DRB (inhibitor of CDK9) decreases SHM and the abundance of Pol II S2P at the IgH locus. Since all these factors play a role in transcription elongation, our studies reinforce the idea that the chromatin context and dynamics of transcription are critical for SHM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2104013118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
StatePublished - Jul 20 2021


  • Dot1L
  • H3K79me
  • Immunoglobulin variable (V) region
  • Somatic hypermutation (SHM)
  • Transcription elongation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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