The rearrangement of immunoglobulin (Ig) and T cell receptor (TCR) genes requires the activity of an as yet undefined V(D)J recombinase. One component of the recombinase appears to be a terminal transferase which may be involved in the addition of untemplated nucleotides (N regions) to the V(D)J joints. It has been observed that rearranged Ig and TCR genes isolated from fetal liver have few if any N regions, whereas in the adult mouse, these genes have a large number of untemplated nucleotides. The presence of N regions greatly alters the composition of the third hypervariable, complementarity determining region of the respective proteins, thus playing a major role in the conformation of the binding site. It was possible that, for functional reasons, N region-containing Ig and TCR genes were not permissible at the fetal stage of development. We have produced transgenic mice with a rearrangement test gene which, after V-J recombination, does not result in the production of functional Ig or TCR proteins. We report here that the rearrangement products have no N regions in fetal liver, but that the majority of joints in adult lymphoid tissues have N additions. The study is also an interesting demonstration of the randomness of rearrangements and the enormous variability that can be created from a single pair of V and J sequences.

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