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Allelic exclusion

allelic exclusion, allelic exclusion b cells
Allelic exclusion is a process by which only one allele of a gene is expressed while the other allele is silenced For autosomal genes, diploid organisms inherit one copy from each parent

At least two distinct selection events can lead to allelic exclusion On one hand, one allele of the gene can be transcriptionally silent, which would result in the expression of only the second allele On the other hand, both alleles can be transcribed, in which case posttranscriptional and posttranslational mechanisms will lead to the elimination of the protein product of one allele

The mechanism by which allelic exclusion occurs is not fully understood[1]


  • 1 Allelic exclusion in B-Lymphocytes
  • 2 Allelic exclusion in sensory neurons
  • 3 References
    • 31 Further reading

Allelic exclusion in B-Lymphocytes

Allelic exclusion has been observed most often in genes for cell surface receptors and has been extensively studied in immune cells such as B lymphocytes[2] In B lymphocytes, successful heavy chain gene rearrangement of the genetic material from one chromosome results in the shutting down of rearrangement of genetic material from the second chromosome If no successful rearrangement occurs, rearrangement of genetic material on the second chromosome takes place If no successful rearrangement occurs on either chromosome, the cell dies

As a result of allelic exclusion, all the antigen receptors on an individual lymphocyte will have the same amino acid sequence in the variable domain of the heavy chain protein As the specificity of the antigen receptor is modulated by the variable domain of the light chain encoded by one of the immunoglobulin light chain loci, the specificities of B cells containing the same heavy chain recombination event can differ according to their light chain recombination event

Allelic exclusion in sensory neurons

A study published in 2008 showed that CpA-methylation helps for allelic exclusion in sensory neurons[3]


  1. ^ Mostoslavsky R; Alt FW; Rajewsky K 2004 "The lingering enigma of the allelic exclusion mechanism" Cell 118 5: 539–44 doi:101016/jcell200408023 PMID 15339659 
  2. ^ Chess A 1998 "Expansion of the allelic exclusion principle" Science 279 5359: 2067–8 doi:101126/science27953592067 PMID 9537917 
  3. ^ S Lomvardas; G Barnea; DJ Pisapia; M Mendelsohn; J Kirkland & R Axel 2006 "Interchromosomal interactions and olfactory receptor choice" Cell 126 2: 403–413 doi:101016/jcell200606035 PMID 16873069 

Further reading

  • Cellular and Molecular Immunology 5th Ed Abbas AK, and Lichtman AH, Editor: Saunders, Philadelphia, 2003

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Allelic exclusion

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