Antibody repertoire deep sequencing reveals antigen-independent selection in maturing B cells.
Kaplinsky J., Li A., Sun A., Coffre M., Koralov SB., Arnaout R.
Antibody repertoires are known to be shaped by selection for antigen binding. Unexpectedly, we now show that selection also acts on a non-antigen-binding antibody region: the heavy-chain variable (VH)-encoded "elbow" between variable and constant domains. By sequencing 2.8 million recombined heavy-chain genes from immature and mature B-cell subsets in mice, we demonstrate a striking gradient in VH gene use as pre-B cells mature into follicular and then into marginal zone B cells. Cells whose antibodies use VH genes that encode a more flexible elbow are more likely to mature. This effect is distinct from, and exceeds in magnitude, previously described maturation-associated changes in heavy-chain complementarity determining region 3, a key antigen-binding region, which arise from junctional diversity rather than differential VH gene use. Thus, deep sequencing reveals a previously unidentified mode of B-cell selection.