Developing B cells generate DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) to assemble immunoglobulin receptor (Ig) genes necessary for the expression of a mature B cell receptor. These physiologic DSBs are made by the RAG endonuclease, which is comprised of the RAG1 and RAG2 proteins. In pre-B cells, RAG-mediated DSBs activate the ATM kinase to coordinate canonical and non-canonical DNA damage responses (DDR) that trigger DSB repair and B cell developmental signals, respectively. Whether this broad cellular response is distinctive to RAG DSBs is poorly understood. To delineate the factors that direct DDR signaling in B cells, we express a tetracycline-inducible Cas9 nuclease in Rag1-deficient pre-B cells. Both RAG- and Cas9-mediated DSBs at Ig genes activate canonical DDR. In contrast, RAG DSBs, but not Cas9 DSBs, induce the non-canonical DDR-dependent developmental program. This unique response to RAG DSBs is, in part, regulated by non-core regions of RAG1. Thus, B cells trigger distinct cellular responses to RAG DSBs through unique properties of the RAG endonuclease that promotes activation of B cell developmental programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere55429
JournalEMBO Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2023


  • B cell development
  • Cas9
  • DNA breaks
  • DNA damage response
  • RAG


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