Impact of age on hypermutation of immunoglobulin variable genes in humans

K. Rosner, D. B. Winter, C. Kasmer, G. L. Skovgaard, R. E. Tarone, V. A. Bohr, P. J. Gearhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Chronological aging is associated with an accumulation of DNA mutations that results in cancer formation. The effect of aging on spontaneous mutations in humans is difficult to study because mutations are infrequent in the overall genome and tumors are relatively rare. In contrast, somatic mutations in immunoglobulin variable genes are abundant and can be studied in peripheral blood lymphocytes. To determine if aging alters the frequency and pattern of hypermutation, we sequenced 331 cDNA clones with rearranged VH6 genes and compared 452 mutations from young humans to 570 mutations from old humans. There were more mutated clones in the young population compared to the old population. Among the mutated clones, the frequency, location, and types of substitutions were similar between the young and the old groups. However, the ratio of replacement-to-silent mutations was much higher in the complementarity-determining regions of heavy chains from old people, which indicates that their B cells had been selected by antigen. Among individuals, there was variability in the frequency of tandem mutations, which we have observed in mice defective for the PMS2 mismatch repair protein. Microsatellite variability in DNA, which is caused by impaired mismatch repair, was then measured, and there was a strong correlation between the frequency of tandem mutations and microsatellite alterations. The data suggest that individuals vary in their mismatch repair capacity, which can affect the mutational spectra in their antibodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-115
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Aging
  • Antibody selection
  • Hypermutation
  • Immunoglobulin genes
  • Mismatch repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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