Mice reconstituted with DNA polymerase beta-deficient fetal liver cells are able to mount a T cell-dependent immune response and mutate their Ig genes normally.


The ubiquitously expressed, error-prone DNA polymerase beta (polbeta) plays a role in base excision repair, and the involvement of this molecule in the nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) process of DNA repair has recently been demonstrated in yeast. Polbeta-deficient mice are not viable, and studies on conditional mutants revealed a competitive disadvantage of polbeta(-/-) vs. wild-type cells. We show here that polbeta-deficient mice survive up to day 18.5 postcoitum, but die perinatally; a circumstance that allowed the investigation of a potential role of polbeta in lymphocyte development by transfer of fetal liver cells (FLC) derived from polbeta(-/-) embryos into lethally irradiated hosts. FLC transfers using mutant cells lead to an almost normal reconstitution of the lymphocyte compartment, indicating that polbeta- deficiency does not prevent V(D)J recombination, which is known to employ factors of the NHEJ pathway. Mice reconstituted with polbeta(-/-) FLC mount a normal T cell-dependent immune response against the hapten (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl) acetyl (NP). Moreover, germinal center B cells from NP-immunized reconstituted mice show normal levels and patterns of somatic point mutations in their rearranged antibody genes, demonstrating that polbeta is not critically involved in somatic hypermutation.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A