Chromatin Dynamics and the Development of the TCRα and TCRδ Repertoires.
The adaptive immune system allows vertebrates to orchestrate highly specific responses to a virtually unlimited milieu of antigens. Effective adaptive immune responses depend on the capacity of T and B lymphocytes to generate diverse repertoires of antigen receptors through the recombination of variable (V), diversity (D), and joining (J) gene segments at antigen receptor loci. V(D)J recombination must be carefully regulated during the early stages of T and B lymphocyte development to ensure the proper development of lymphocyte subsets and to maximize antigen receptor combinatorial diversity. Among all T cell receptor (TCR) and immunoglobulin loci, the TCRα/δ (Tcra/Tcrd) locus is unique in its complexity since it undergoes recombination at two distinct stages of T cell development to create distinct TCR proteins that are used by different lineages of T cells. Here, we review the mechanisms that regulate V(D)J recombination at the Tcra/Tcrd locus, with a focus on the dynamic chromatin environment and how it instructs the assembly of the Tcra and Tcrd repertoires. We discuss the dynamics of Tcra and Tcrd repertoire formation in the context of T cell development, and we consider how the recombination program is directed by localized changes in chromatin structure that regulate the accessibility of Tcra and Tcrd gene segments to the V(D)J recombinase. We then move beyond local to address spatial relationships in the nucleus, emphasizing the three-dimensional organization of the Tcra/Tcrd locus as a critical player in understanding long-distance interactions between chromatin regulatory elements as well as long-distance interactions between recombination substrates.
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