The products of the RAG-1 and RAG-2 genes cooperate to allow V(D)J recombination in lymphoid and nonlymphoid cells. As one step toward understanding the role of RAG-2, we have constructed mutated RAG-2 genes and examined their ability to support recombination of plasmid substrates in a fibroblast cell line. The mutations define essential and dispensable parts of the RAG-2 gene. Mutations in the N-terminal part eliminate almost all activity. In the central region of the protein, some but not all local alterations still allow recombination. On the other hand, proteins with large deletions from the C-terminal end, including one truncated by 25%, still retain activity, even though this part of the protein is highly conserved between species. Similar results were obtained with substrates that retain either a signal joint or a coding joint, or perform an inversion. Thus all basic features of V(D)J joining are retained in a RAG-2 protein with only the first 75% of the sequence.
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