Somatic hypermutation plays an essential role in avidity maturation of Ab. To characterize the effects of hypermutation without the imposed bias of Ag-mediated selection, the mutational pattern of 37 nonproductively rearranged VH genes amplified from individual human B cells was analyzed. A high frequency of mutations as well as frequent replacement mutations were observed in the complementarity-determining regions (CDR) and in the framework regions of nonproductive VHDJH rearrangements. Comparison with 57 productive VH rearrangements indicated that replacement mutations, especially those occurring in the framework regions, were less frequent in productively rearranged VH genes, suggesting that they were deleted from the expressed repertoire. A number of factors contributed to the nonrandom localization of mutations, including: the targeting of specific motifs, such as AGY, GCY, GTA, TAY, and RGYW; an increased frequency of some commonly mutated motifs in the CDRs; and an apparent increased likelihood of mutations of CDR nucleotides. Each of these appeared to bias the mutational machinery, resulting in an increased frequency of replacement mutations in the CDRs of nonproductive VH rearrangements.

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