The DNA cleavage step in both the class switch recombination (CSR) and somatic hypermutation (SHM) of Ig genes is initiated by activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID). However, the detailed mechanisms of the DNA strand cleavage in SHM and CSR are still largely unknown. Recently, the apurinic/apyrimidinic endonucleases, Apex1 and Apex2, were reported to be involved in the DNA cleavage step of CSR. Here, we examined the role of Apex2 in SHM using Apex2-deficient mice and found that the Apex2 deficiency caused a drastic reduction in the frequency of SHM and the number of mutations per mutated clone without affecting the pattern of base substitution. These results suggest that Apex2 may play a critical role in SHM through its 3′-5′ exonuclease activity. Unexpectedly, the efficiency of CSR was not reduced in Apex2-deficient B cells. In addition, Apex1 knockdown in CH12F3-2 B lymphoma cells did not affect the CSR frequency, suggesting that neither Apex1 nor Apex2 plays a major role in CSR.
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