Tcra gene recombination is supported by a Tcra enhancer- and CTCF-dependent chromatin hub

Han Yu Shih, Jiyoti Verma-Gaur, Ali Torkamani, Ann J Feeney, Niels Galjart, Michael S. Krangel

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61 Citations (Scopus)


Antigen receptor locus V(D)J recombination requires interactions between widely separated variable (V), diversity (D), and joining (J) gene segments, but the mechanisms that generate these interactions are not well understood. Here we assessed mechanisms that direct developmental stage-specific long-distance interactions at the Tcra/Tcrd locus. The Tcra/Tcrd locus recombines Tcrd gene segments in CD4CD8 double-negative thymocytes and Tcra gene segments in CD4+CD8+ double-positive thymocytes. Initial Vα-to-Jα recombination occurs within a chromosomal domain that displays a contracted conformation in both thymocyte subsets. We used chromosome conformation capture to demonstrate that the Tcra enhancer (Eα) interacts directly with Vα and Jα gene segments distributed across this domain, specifically in double-positive thymocytes. Moreover, Eα promotes interactions between these Vα and Jα segments that should facilitate their synapsis. We found that the CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) binds to Eα and to many locus promoters, biases Eα to interact with these promoters, and is required for efficient Vα–Jα recombination. Our data indicate that Eα and CTCF cooperate to create a developmentally regulated chromatin hub that supports Vα–Jα synapsis and recombination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E3493-E3502
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • T-cell development
  • T-cell receptor
  • Thymus

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