Sequence analysis of a large number of DNA clones containing a functional heavy chain variable, diversity, and joining (VHDJH) complex generated by VH to VHDJH joining (VH gene replacement) in the progeny derived from a common precursor cell transformed with a temperature-sensitive (ts) Abelson murine leukemia virus (A-MuLV) indicates that endogenous VH gene replacement in vitro generates immunoglobulin gene joints distinct from those generated by the usual VH to DJH joining. Such joints keep the pentamer CAAGA at the 3' end of the donor VH segment and lack a recognizable D segment, as can be seen also in vivo. The results suggest that VH gene replacement participates in generating VH region diversity in vivo, as previously postulated. During the joining process, a unique VH gene was selected in all progeny cells, together with a single A nucleotide dominantly added to the junctional boundaries. The basis of these regulatory processes is discussed.

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