A central paradigm of immunology is clonal selection: lymphocytes displaying clonally distributed antigen receptors are generated and subsequently selected by antigen for growth or elimination. Here we show that in mice transgenic for anti-H-2Kk,b antibody genes, in which a homogeneous clone of developing B cells can be analyzed for the outcome of autoantigen encounter, surface immunoglobulin M+/idiotype+ immature B cells binding to self-antigens in the bone marrow are induced to alter the specificity of their antigen receptors. Transgenic bone marrow B cells encountering membrane-bound Kb or Kk proteins modify their receptors by expressing the V(D)J recombinase activator genes and assembling endogenously encoded immunoglobulin light chain variable genes. This (auto)antigen-directed change in the specificity of newly generated lymphocytes is termed receptor editing.

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