Diverse mutational landscapes in human lymphocytes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A lymphocyte suffers many threats to its genome, including programmed mutation during differentiation1 , antigen-driven proliferation and residency in diverse microenvironments. After developing protocols for single-cell lymphocyte expansions, we sequenced whole genomes from 717 normal naive and memory B and T lymphocytes and haematopoietic stem cells. All lymphocyte subsets carried more point mutations and structural variants than haematopoietic stem cells, with higher burdens in memory than naive lymphocytes, and with T cells accumulating mutations at a higher rate throughout life. Off-target effects of immunological diversification accounted for approximately half the additional differentiation-associated mutations in lymphocytes. Memory B cells acquired, on average, 18 off-target mutations genome-wide for every one on-target IGHV mutation during the germinal centre reaction. Structural variation was 16-fold higher in lymphocytes than stem cells, with ~15% of deletions being attributable to off target RAG activity. DNA damage from ultraviolet light exposure and other sporadic mutational processes generated hundreds to thousands of mutations in some memory lymphocytes. The mutation burden and signatures of normal B lymphocytes were broadly comparable to those seen in many B-cell cancers, suggesting that malignant transformation of lymphocytes arises from the same mutational processes active across normal ontogeny. The mutational landscape of normal lymphocytes chronicles the off-target effects of programmed genome engineering during immunological diversification and the consequences of differentiation, proliferation and residency in diverse microenvironments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Jul 2022

Cite this