Mutants Of Activation-induced Cytidine Deaminase (aid) And Methods Of Use

MUTANTS OF ACTIVATION-INDUCED CYTIDINE DEAMINASE (AID) AND

METHODS OF USE

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/166,349, filed April 3, 2009, which is incorporated by reference.

INCORPORATION-BY-REFERENCE OF MATERIAL SUBMITTED

ELECTRONICALLY

[0002] Incorporated by reference in its entirety herein is a computer-readable nucleotide/amino acid sequence listing submitted concurrently herewith and identified as follows: One 140,103 Byte ASCII (Text) file named "SequenceListing.TXT," created on April 1, 2010.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Natural mechanisms for generating antibody diversification exploit the process of somatic hypermutation (SHM) to trigger the evolution of immunoglobulin variable regions, thereby rapidly generating the secondary antibody repertoire associated with the humoral response. In vivo, SHM represents a highly efficient process, which is capable of rapidly exploring productive folding structures and evolving high affinity antibodies in a manner that represents the natural process for antibody optimization. Thus, there has been significant interest to try to replicate SHM in vitro to create a simple, robust process that would be capable of mimicking the natural processes of affinity maturation directly within a mammalian cellular context to select and evolve antibodies that are immunogenically tolerated, and highly expressed in mammalian cells (Cumbers et al., Nat Biotechnol., 20(11): 1129-1134 (2002); Wang et al., Prot. Eng. Des. SeL, 17(9): 569-664 (2004); Wang et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA., 101(48): 16745-16749 (2004); Ruckerl et al., MoL Immunol., 43 (10): 1645-1652 (2006); Todo et al., /. Biosci. Bioeng., 102(5): 478-81 (2006); Arakawa et al., Nucleic Acids Res., 36(1): el (2008)).

[0004] However, native antibodies that have been isolated from an individual human or animal often fail to demonstrate optimal affinity properties because an intrinsic affinity ceiling inherent in the immune system prevents the in vivo discrimination - and thus selection - of antibodies with affinities more potent than about 100 pM (Batista and Neuberger, Immunity, 8(6): 751-91998, (1998) and EMBO J., 19(4): 513-20 (2000). [0005] The use of phage display libraries can address some of these issues, and phage display based approaches have been shown to be capable of routinely producing high affinity antibodies. However, from a theoretical perspective, such static libraries are inherently limited in their size and scope, because even the largest (1012) libraries can explore only a small fraction of the potential innate immune repertoire. Furthermore it is not possible to simultaneously co-evolve antibodies via phage display approaches on the basis of both good mammalian expression and high affinity, leading to potential downstream manufacturing issues that result from otherwise poor expression in mammalian host cells. Additionally, the use of random mutagenesis in combination with phage display lacks the inherent selectivity profiling found in natural processes of antibody affinity maturation, often resulting in issues of human anti-human immunity, or undesirable cross reactivity profiles.

[0006] The use of a cultured cell line to evolve an antibody to a specific target antigen using somatic hypermutation in vitro was first demonstrated using the human Burkitt lymphoma cell line, Ramos (Cumbers et al., Nat. Biotechnol, 20(11): 1129-1134 (2002)). Ramos, and other B cell lines, have also been used successfully to evolve non antibody genes that have been randomly integrated in to the host cell's chromosomal DNA (Wang et al., Prot. Eng. Des. SeL, 17(9): 569-664 (2004) and Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 101(48): 16745-16749 (2004)). Additionally, efficient somatic hypermutation has been demonstrated on non antibody genes in B cell lines using episomal vectors, either with or without Ig specific cis regulatory elements (Ruckerl et al., MoL Immunol., 43 (10): 1645-1652 (2006)). Although some Ramos cell lines show relatively high rates of constitutive hypermutation, B cell lines in general display relatively slow rates of cell division and are difficult to transfect with high efficiency, which limits their practical utility for directed evolution. [0007] The chicken bursal cell line, DT40, diversifies its rearranged Ig light gene by pseudo V gene template gene conversion. However, if gene conversion is blocked by the deletion of the Rad51 paralog, XRCC2 (Sale et al., Nature, 412: 921-6 (2001)), or the deletion of the pseudogene conversion donors (Arakawa et al., Nucleic Acids Res., 36(1): el (2008)), the cell line displays constitutive hypermutation in culture. By comparison to Ramos cells, DT40 cells have a significantly shorter generation time (12 hours), are amenable to directed gene targeting and have been successfully used for directed evolution of both endogenous antibodies (Seo et al., Nat. Biotechnol., 23(6): 731-5 (2005); Nat. Protoc, 1(3): 1502-6 (2006); Biotechnol. Genet. Eng. Rev., 24: 179-93 (2007); Todo et al., /. Biosci. Bioeng., 102(5): 478-81 (2006)), and non antibody proteins (Arakawa et al., Nucleic Acids Res., 36(1): el (2008)).

[0008] While B-cell derivatives such as Ramos and DT40 have been successfully used for directed evolution, the reliable use of these cells in a robust process for directed evolution is complicated by a number of factors including: (i) the need to insert the gene of interest into a defined site in the host cell's Ig locus in order to achieve high level mutagenesis (Parsa et al., MoI Immunol, 44(4): 567-75 (2007), and (ii) the complex natural biology of somatic hypermutation acting at the endogenous immunoglobulin loci in these cells. Additionally such engineered cell lines exhibit significant clonal instability in SHM rates (Zhang et al., Int. Immunol, 13: 1175-1184 (2001), Martin et al., Proc. Natl Acad. ScL USA., 99(19): 12304-12308 (2002) and Nature, 415(6873): 802-806 (2002); Ruckerl et al., MoI Immunol, 41: 1135-1143 (2004)), and do not provide for any simple means to regulate or control hypermutation, i.e. to switch off mutagenesis after selection of a desired phenotype has been achieved.

[0009] The use of non B cells to initiate targeted somatic hypermutation in a gene of interest has been successfully described by a number of groups (Martin et al., Proc. Natl Acad. ScL USA., 99(19): 12304-12308 (2002) and Nature, 415(6873): 802-806 (2002); McBride et al., Proc. Natl Acad. ScL USA, 103(23): 8798-803 (2006); Jovanic et al., PLoS ONE, 23;3(1): el480 (2008); U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378; International Patent Application Publications WO 08/103474A1 and WO 08/103475A1), and these cell lines can also provide for efficient gene transfer, high level protein expression, optimal growth characteristics and are readily amenable to suspension culture and flow cytometry. [0010] Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) belongs to the APOBEC family of cytidine deaminase enzymes. AID is expressed within activated B cells and is required to initiate somatic hypermutation (Muramatsu et al., Cell, 102(5): 553-63 (2000); Revy et al., Cell, 102(5): 565-75 (2000); Yoshikawa et al., Science, 296(5575): 2033-6 (2002)) by creating point mutations in the underlying DNA encoding antibody genes (Martin et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA., 99(19): 12304-12308 (2002) and Nature, 415(6873): 802-806 (2002); Petersen-Mart et al., Nature, 418(6893): 99-103 (2002)). AID is also an essential protein factor for class switch recombination and gene conversion (Muramatsu et al., Cell, 102(5): 553-63 (2000); Revy et al., Cell, 102(5): 565-75 (2000)).

[0011] The discovery that AID is responsible for initiating somatic hypermutation has opened the possibility of using non B cell lines to create more defined, stable and controllable systems for utilizing somatic hypermutation.

[0012] Despite these advances, key challenges regarding the development of a practical system for somatic hypermutation remain, including (1) the ability to target somatic hypermutation to a gene of interest, and away from structural genes, (2) the relatively low rates and nature of the mutations achieved using exogenous AID compared to somatic hypermutation in vivo, and (3) the relatively long cell doubling times required to grow up a cell population from a single cell clone between cycles of mutagenesis. [0013] Thus, there is a specific need for improved compositions and methods to improve the efficiency of somatic hypermutation systems. This invention provides such compositions and methods.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0014] The invention provides an isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution. [0015] In one embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156.

[0016] In another embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 10 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156.

[0017] In yet another embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 35 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 145.

[0018] In a further embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 160.

[0019] In another embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 43 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 120.

[0020] The invention also provides an isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant AID protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least two amino acid substitutions, wherein at least one substitution is at residue 57 and at least one substitution is at residue 145 or 81, and wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay. [0021] In still another embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant

AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 82.

[0022] In a further embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or

SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34.

[0023] In a further embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or

SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 157.

[0024] In yet another embodiment, the amino acid sequence of the functional mutant

AID protein differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residues 10, 82, and 156.

[0025] The invention also provides an isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from an amino acid sequence selected from the group of a canine AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 3), murine AID protein (SEQ

ID NO: 4), rat AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 5), bovine AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 6), and chicken AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 7) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

[0026] Further provided is an expression vector comprising a nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID).

[0027] The invention also provides an isolated cell comprising the nucleic acid molecule encoding a functional mutant AID protein.

[0028] Further provided is a transgenic animal comprising the nucleic acid molecule encoding a functional mutant AID protein.

[0029] The invention also provides a method for preparing a gene product having a desired property, which method comprises expressing a nucleic acid encoding the gene product in a population of cells, wherein the population of cells expresses, or can be induced to express, a functional mutant AID protein, whereupon expression of the functional mutant

AID protein induces a mutation in the nucleic acid encoding the gene product. [0030] Further provided is a method for mutating an organism to have a desired phenotype comprising expressing, or inducing the expression of, a functional mutant AID protein in the organism, whereupon expression of the functional mutant AID protein induces a mutation within the chromosomal DNA of the organism.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0031] FIG. Ia includes images of papillae in bacterial colonies expressing or not expressing human AID. FIG. Ib is a bar graph quantifying the papillae in bacterial colonies expressing human AID, APOBECl (Al), or APOBEC3G (A3G). FIG. Ic is a diagram depicting the two APOBEC3G cDNAs obtained by screening a human spleen cDNA library for papillae. FIG. Id includes images of papillae in bacterial colonies expressing the indicated AID protein and lists the mutation frequencies relative to vector. FIG. Ie includes images of papulation by AID Mutl .1 as a function of arabinose concentration. FIG. If is a graph depicting the plating efficiency of human AID mutants.

[0032] FIG. 2 is a chart that illustrates select human functional AID mutants identified in papulation screens. The numbers depict the mean frequency of mutation to Rif of each human AID mutant relative to vector.

[0033] FIG. 3a is a sequence diagram of human AID that illustrates the positions and identities of the functional mutations that were identified in human and pufferfish AID. FIGS. 3b compares the expression level of GST-AID mutant fusion proteins by Western blot. FIGS. 3c,d are graphs which quantify the deaminase activity and target specificity of GST-AID mutant fusion proteins.

[0034] FIG. 4a is a chart that illustrates select pufferfish AID mutants identified in papulation screens. FIG. 4b is a bar graph that compares the relative mutation frequency of pufferfish AID mutants to Rif at 18° C and 37 0C.

[0035] FIG. 5a includes flow cytometry plots of IgM and GFP expression in individual DT40 clones expressing the indicated AID protein. FIG. 5a also contains a graph of IgM loss in 12 independent clonal transfectants expressing the indicated protein. FIG. 5b contains a diagram of the distribution of the Ig Vλ mutations observed in transfected DT40 cells. FIG. 5b also contains pie charts depicting the number of Ig Vλ mutations after sorting for IgM loss. FIG. 5b also shows AID expression by Western blot. FIG. 5c includes flow cytometry plots of switching to IgGl in AID-deficient B cells transduced with the indicated retrovirus. The bar graph in FIG. 5c quantifies IgGl switching relative to wild-type AID, and the Western blot in FIG. 5c shows AID expression by Western blot. [0036] FIG. 6a is a diagram that illustrates a reciprocal translocation between c-myc and IgH locus and depicts the primers (arrows) and probes (P) used for detection of the translocation. FIG. 6b is a Southern blot of c-myc-IgH translocations derived from chromosomes 15 and 12 after amplification by PCR of genomic DNA from AID-deficient B cells transduced with the indicated retrovirus.

[0037] FIG. 7 is a LOGO alignment which illustrates that the functional mutations identified in the bacterial papulation screen bring the AID sequence closer to that of

APOBEC3s.

[0038] FIG. 8 lists the GenBank/Ensembl accession numbers of the mammalian AID and APOBEC3 sequences used to generate FIG. 7.

[0039] FIG. 9 is a sequence diagram of human AID and pufferfish (fugu) AID that illustrates the positions and identities of the functional mutations that were identified.

[0040] FIG. 10a is a nucleic acid sequence alignment of AID sequences used in 293-cl8 cell experiments described in Example 14. Boxed residues indicate changes between wt and 7.3 mutant sequences. FIG 10b is an amino acid sequence alignment of AID sequences used in the 293-cl8 cell experiments described in Example 14. Boxed residues indicate changes between wt and 7.3 mutant sequences. The L to A mutation in MutE and Mut 7.3 disables the function of the nuclear export signal. A period indicates a stop codon, and a dash specifies positions where there is no corresponding amino acid.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0041] The invention provides an isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant AID protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

[0042] "Nucleic acid molecule" is intended to encompass a polymer of DNA or RNA, i.e., a polynucleotide, which can be single- stranded or double-stranded and which can contain non-natural or altered nucleotides. The terms "nucleic acid" and "polynucleotide" as used herein refer to a polymeric form of nucleotides of any length, either ribonucleotides (RNA) or deoxyribonucleotides (DNA). These terms refer to the primary structure of the molecule, and thus include double- and single- stranded DNA, and double- and single- stranded RNA. The terms include, as equivalents, analogs of either RNA or DNA made from nucleotide analogs and modified polynucleotides such as, though not limited to methylated and/or capped polynucleotides.

[0043] The term "nucleotide" as used herein refers to a monomeric unit of a polynucleotide that consists of a heterocyclic base, a sugar, and one or more phosphate groups. The naturally occurring bases (guanine, (G), adenine, (A), cytosine, (C), thymine, (T), and uracil (U)) are typically derivatives of purine or pyrimidine, though it should be understood that naturally and non-naturally occurring base analogs are also included. The naturally occurring sugar is the pentose (five-carbon sugar) deoxyribose (which forms DNA) or ribose (which forms RNA), though it should be understood that naturally and non- naturally occurring sugar analogs are also included. Nucleic acids are typically linked via phosphate bonds to form nucleic acids or polynucleotides, though many other linkages are known in the art (e.g., phosphorothioates, boranophosphates and the like). [0044] The terms "synthetic polynucleotide," "synthetic gene" or "synthetic polypeptide," as used herein, mean that the corresponding polynucleotide sequence or portion thereof, or amino acid sequence or portion thereof, is derived from a sequence that has been designed, or synthesized de novo, or modified, compared to the equivalent naturally occurring sequence. Synthetic polynucleotides or synthetic genes can be prepared by methods known in the art, including but not limited to, the chemical synthesis of nucleic acid or amino acid sequences or amplified via PCR (or similar enzymatic amplification systems). Synthetic genes are typically different from unmodified genes or naturally occurring genes, either at the amino acid level or polynucleotide level (or both) and are typically located within the context of synthetic expression control sequences. For example, synthetic gene sequences may include amino acid or polynucleotide sequences that have been changed, for example, by the replacement, deletion, or addition, of one or more, amino acids, or nucleotides, thereby providing an amino acid sequence, or a polynucleotide coding sequence that is different from the source sequence. Synthetic gene or polynucleotide sequences may not necessarily encode proteins with different amino acids, compared to the natural gene. For example, they can also encompass synthetic polynucleotide sequences that incorporate different codons but which encode the same amino acid; i.e., the nucleotide changes represent silent mutations at the amino acid level. In one embodiment, synthetic genes exhibit altered susceptibility to SHM compared to the naturally occurring or unmodified gene. Synthetic genes can be iteratively modified using the methods described herein and, in each successive iteration, a corresponding polynucleotide sequence or amino acid sequence, is derived, in whole or part, from a sequence that has been designed, or synthesized de novo, or modified, compared to an equivalent unmodified sequence. [0045] As used herein a "codon" refers to the three nucleotides which, when transcribed and translated, encode a single amino acid residue; or in the case of UUA, UGA or UAG encode a termination signal. Codons encoding amino acids are well known in the art. [0046] Optimal codon usage is indicated by codon usage frequencies for expressed genes, for example, as shown in the codon usage chart from the program "Human - High.cod" from the Wisconsin Sequence Analysis Package, Version 8.1, Genetics Computer Group, Madison, Wise. Codon usage is also described in, for example, R. Nussinov, "Eukaryotic Dinucleotide Preference Rules and Their Implications for Degenerate Codon Usage," /. MoL Biol., 149: 125-131 (1981). The codons which are most frequently used in highly expressed human genes are presumptively the optimal codons for expression in human host cells and, thus, form the bases for constructing a synthetic coding sequence.

[0047] By "isolated" is meant the removal of a nucleic acid from its natural environment. By "purified" is meant that a given nucleic acid, whether one that has been removed from nature (including genomic DNA and mRNA) or synthesized (including cDNA) and/or amplified under laboratory conditions, has been increased in purity, wherein "purity" is a relative term, not "absolute purity." It is to be understood, however, that nucleic acids and proteins may be formulated with diluents or adjuvants and still for practical purposes be isolated. For example, nucleic acids will be mixed with an acceptable carrier or diluent when used for introduction into cells.

[0048] The term "activation-induced cytidine deaminase" or ("AID") refers to members of the AID/ APOBEC family of RNA/DNA editing cytidine deaminases capable of mediating the deamination of cytosine to uracil within a DNA sequence. (See, e.g., Conticello et al., MoL Biol. EvoL, 22: 367-377 (2005) and U.S. Patent 6,815,194). [0049] The term "wild-type AID" refers to a naturally occurring amino acid sequence of an AID protein. Suitable wild-type AID proteins include all vertebrate forms of AID, including, for example, primate, rodent, avian and bony fish. Representative examples of wild-type AID amino acid sequences include without limitation, human AID (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2), canine AID (SEQ ID NO: 3), murine AID (SEQ ID NO: 4), rat AID (SEQ ID NO: 5), bovine AID (SEQ ID NO: 6), chicken AID (SEQ ID NO: 7), porcine AID (SEQ ID NO: 8), chimp AID (SEQ ID NO: 9), macaque AID (SEQ ID NO: 10), horse AID (SEQ ID NO: 11), Xenopus AID (SEQ ID NO: 12), pufferfish (fugu) AID (SEQ ID NO: 13), and zebrafish (SEQ ID NO: 14).

[0050] The term "AID homolog" refers to the enzymes of the Apobec family and include, for example, Apobec- 1, Apobec3C or Apobec3G (described, for example, in Jarmuz et al., Genomics, 79: 285-296 (2002)). The term "AID activity" includes activity mediated by AID and AID homologs.

[0051] An "AID mutant" or a "mutant of AID," as used herein, refers to an AID amino acid sequence that differs from a wild-type AID amino acid sequence by at least one amino acid. A wild-type amino acid sequence can be mutated to produce an AID mutant by any suitable method known in the art, such as, for example, by insertion, deletion and/or substitution. For example, mutations may be introduced into a nucleic acid sequence encoding wild-type AID randomly or in a site- specific manner. Random mutations may be generated, for example, by error-prone PCR of an AID template sequence. A preferred means for introducing random mutations in is the Genemorph II Random Mutagenesis Kit (Stratagene, LaJoIIa, CA). Site-specific mutations can be introduced, for example, by ligating into an expression vector a synthesized oligonucleotide comprising the modified site. Alternately, oligonucleotide-directed site-specific mutagenesis procedures can be used, such as those disclosed in Walder et al., Gene, 42: 133 (1986); Bauer et al., Gene, 37: 73 (1985); Craik, Biotechniques, 12-19 (January 1995); and U.S. Patent Nos. 4,518,584 and 4,737,462. A preferred means for introducing site-specific mutations is the QuikChange Site-Directed Mutagenesis Kit (Stratagene, LaJoIIa, CA).

[0052] The terms "functional mutant of AID," "functional AID mutant," or "functional mutant AID protein," each refer to a mutant AID protein which retains all or part of the biological activity of a wild-type AID, or which exhibits increased biological activity as compared to a wild-type AID protein. The biological activity of a wild-type AID includes, but is not limited to, the deamination of cytosine to uracil within a DNA sequence, papulation in a bacterial mutagenesis assay, somatic hypermutation of a target gene, and immunoglobulin class switching. A mutant AID protein can retain any part of the biological activity of a wild-type AID protein. Desirably, the mutant AID protein retains at least 75% (e.g., 75%, 80%, 90% or more) of the biological activity of wild-type AID. Preferably, the mutant AID protein retains at least 90% (e.g., 90%, 95%, 100% or more) of the biological activity of wild- type AID.

[0053] In a preferred embodiment, the mutant AID protein exhibits increased biological activity as compared to a wild-type AID protein. In this respect, the functional AID mutant has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to a wild- type AID protein as measured by a bacterial papulation assay. Bacterial papulation assays are known in the art as useful for screening for E. CoIi mutants that are defective in some aspect of DNA repair (Nghiem et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 85: 2709-2713 (1988) and Ruiz et al., /. BacterioL, 175: 4985-4989 (1993)). The bacterial papulation assay can employ Escherichia coli CC102 cells harboring a missense mutation within the lacZ gene. E. CoIi CC102 cells give rise to white colonies on MacConkey-lactose plates. Within such white colonies, a small number of red microcolonies, or "papilli," can often be discerned (typically 0-2 per colony), which reflect spontaneously-arising Lac+ revertants. Bacterial clones which exhibit an elevated frequency of spontaneous mutation (i.e., "mutator clones") can be identified by virtue of an increased number of papilli. Bacterial papulation assays can be used to screen for functional AID mutants having increased activity as compared to wild- type AID. Bacterial papulation assays are described in detail in the Examples. [0054] In one embodiment, the functional AID mutant has at least a 10-fold (e.g., 10- fold, 30-fold, 50-fold or more) improvement in activity compared to the wild-type AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay. Preferably, the functional AID mutant has at least a 100-fold (e.g., 100-fold, 200-fold, 300-fold or more) improvement in activity compared to wild-type AID. More preferably, the functional AID mutant has at least a 400-fold (e.g., 400-fold, 500-fold, 1000-fold or more) improvement in activity compared to wild- type AID. [0055] The functional mutant AID protein comprises an amino acid sequence which differs from the amino acid sequence of a wild-type AID protein by at least one amino acid substitution. The wild-type AID protein can be any vertebrate AID protein, including those described herein. Desirably, the wild-type AID protein is a human AID protein, of which there are at least two known variants (i.e., SEQ ID NO: 1 and SEQ ID NO: 2). Additional vertebrate AID proteins include, without limitation, canine AID (SEQ ID NO: 3), murine AID (SEQ ID NO: 4), rat AID (SEQ ID NO: 5), bovine AID (SEQ ID NO: 6), chicken AID (SEQ ID NO: 7), porcine AID (SEQ ID NO: 8), chimp AID (SEQ ID NO: 9), macaque AID (SEQ ID NO: 10), horse AID (SEQ ID NO: 11), Xenopus AID (SEQ ID NO: 12), pufferfish (fugu) AID (SEQ ID NO: 13), or zebrafish (SEQ ID NO: 14).

[0056] One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that although there is a high degree of homology among the vertebrate AID proteins, there is a variable number of amino acid substitutions, deletions, and insertions in each of the vertebrate AID protein relative to human AID (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2). As such, the present invention encompasses the mutations described herein when incorporated at the analogous position of any vertebrate AID protein. One of ordinary skill in the art can determine the analogous position in any vertebrate AID protein by performing a sequence alignment of the homologous vertebrate AID protein with that of human AID (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) using any computer based alignment program known in the art (e.g., BLAST or ClustalW2).

[0057] A wild-type AID protein typically contains a nuclear export sequence near the C-terminus of the protein. In one embodiment of the invention, a residue or a plurality of residues that mediate nuclear export of wild-type AID may be mutated, and a functional mutant AID protein may be generated comprising an amino acid sequence which differs from the amino acid sequence of an AID protein having a mutated nuclear export sequence by at least one additional amino acid substitution. Examples of canine AID proteins having a mutated nuclear export sequence that may serve as a reference sequence into which a mutation(s) identified herein as producing a functional AID mutant may be inserted include a L198A mutant (SEQ ID NO: 70) and a D187E, D188E, D191E, T195I, and L198A mutant (SEQ ID NO: 71).

[0058] An amino acid "substitution" refers to the replacement of one amino acid at a given position or residue by another amino acid at the same position or residue within a polypeptide sequence.

[0059] Amino acids are broadly grouped as "aromatic" or "aliphatic." An aromatic amino acid includes an aromatic ring. Examples of "aromatic" amino acids include histidine (H or His), phenylalanine (F or Phe), tyrosine (Y or Tyr), and tryptophan (W or Trp). Non-aromatic amino acids are broadly grouped as "aliphatic." Examples of "aliphatic" amino acids include glycine (G or GIy), alanine (A or Ala), valine (V or VaI), leucine (L or Leu), isoleucine (I or He), methionine (M or Met), serine (S or Ser), threonine (T or Thr), cysteine (C or Cys), proline (P or Pro), glutamic acid (E or GIu), aspartic acid (A or Asp), asparagine (N or Asn), glutamine (Q or GIn), lysine (K or Lys), and arginine (R or Arg).

[0060] Aliphatic amino acids may be sub-divided into four sub-groups. The "large aliphatic non-polar sub-group" consists of valine, leucine and isoleucine, the "aliphatic slightly-polar sub-group" consists of methionine, serine, threonine, and cysteine, the "aliphatic polar/charged sub-group" consists of glutamic acid, aspartic acid, asparagine, glutamine, lysine, and arginine, and the "small-residue sub-group" consists of glycine and alanine. The group of charged/polar amino acids may be sub-divided into three sub-groups: the "positively-charged sub-group," consisting of lysine and arginine, the "negatively- charged sub-group," consisting of glutamic acid and aspartic acid, and the "polar subgroup" consisting of asparagine and glutamine.

[0061] Aromatic amino acids may be sub-divided into two sub-groups: the "nitrogen ring sub-group," consisting of histidine and tryptophan and the "phenyl sub-group," consisting of phenylalanine and tyrosine.

[0062] The phrase "conservative amino acid substitution" or "conservative mutation" refers to the replacement of one amino acid by another amino acid with a common property. A functional way to define common properties between individual amino acids is to analyze the normalized frequencies of amino acid changes between corresponding proteins of homologous organisms (Schulz, G. E. and R. H. Schirmer, Principles of Protein Structure, Springer- Verlag, New York (1979)). According to such analyses, groups of amino acids may be defined where amino acids within a group exchange preferentially with each other, and therefore resemble each other most in their impact on the overall protein structure (Schulz, G. E. and R. H. Schirmer, supra). [0063] Examples of conservative mutations include amino acid substitutions of amino acids within the sub-groups above, for example, lysine for arginine and vice versa such that a positive charge may be maintained; glutamic acid for aspartic acid and vice versa such that a negative charge may be maintained; serine for threonine such that a free -OH can be maintained; and glutamine for asparagine such that a free -NH2 can be maintained. [0064] "Semi-conservative mutations" include amino acid substitutions of amino acids with the same groups listed above, that do not share the same sub-group. For example, the mutation of aspartic acid for asparagine, or asparagine for lysine each involves amino acids within the same group, but different sub-groups.

[0065] "Non-conservative mutations" involve amino acid substitutions between different groups, for example lysine for tryptophan, or phenylalanine for serine, etc. [0066] In a preferred embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156. These residues can be substituted alone, or in any combination. In embodiments where residue 34 lysine (K) is substituted, preferably it is substituted with a glutamic acid (E) or an aspartic acid (D) residue. In embodiments where residue 82 threonine (T) is substituted, preferably it is substituted with an isoleucine (I) or a leucine (L) residue. In embodiments where residue 156 glutamic acid (E) is substituted, preferably it is substituted with a glycine (G) or an alanine (A) residue. Moreover, when amino acid residue 156 is substituted (either alone, or in combination with a substitution at residue 34 and/or residue 82), it may also be desirable to generate a functional AID mutant protein with amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 13, 38, 42, 96, 115, 132, 157, 180, 181, 183, 197, 198, or combinations thereof. In particular, (a) the amino acid substitution at residue 9 can be methionine (M) or lysine (K), (b) the amino acid substitution at residue 13 can be phenylalanine (F) or tryptophan (W), (c) the amino acid substitution at residue 38 can be glycine (G) or alanine (A), (d) the amino acid substitution at residue 42 can be isoleucine (I) or leucine (L), (e) the amino acid substitution at residue 96 can be glycine (G) or alanine (A), (f) the amino acid substitution at residue 115 can be tyrosine (Y) or tryptophan (W), (g) the amino acid substitution at residue 132 can be glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), (h) the amino acid substitution at residue 180 can be isoleucine (I) or alanine (A), (i) the amino acid substitution at residue 181 can be methionine (M) or valine (V), (j) the amino acid substitution at residue 183 can be isoleucine (I) or proline (P), (k) the amino acid substitution at residue 197 can be arginine (R) or lysine (K), (1) the amino acid substitution at residue 198 can be valine (V) or leucine (L), and (m) the amino acid substitution at residue 157 can be threonine (T)or lysine (K). [0067] In another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 10 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156. These residues can be substituted alone, or in any combination. In embodiments where amino acid residue 10 (lysine) is substituted, preferably it is substituted with a glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D) residue. In embodiments where residue 156 (glutamic acid) is substituted, preferably it is substituted with a glycine (G) or alanine (A) residue. In embodiments where the amino acids at residues 10 and 156 are substituted, it may also be desirable to include amino acid substitutions at residues 13, 34, 82, 95, 115, 120, 134, 145, or combinations thereof. In particular, (a) the amino acid substitution at residue 13 can be phenylalanine (F) or tryptophan (W), (b) the amino acid substitution at residue 34 can be glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), (c) the amino acid substitution at residue 82 can be isoleucine (I) or leucine (L), (d) the amino acid substitution at residue 95 can be serine (S) or leucine (L), (e) the amino acid substitution at residue 115 can be tyrosine (Y) or tryptophan (W), (f) the amino acid substitution at residue 120 can be arginine (R) or asparagine (N), and (g) the amino acid substitution at residue 145 can be leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

[0068] In another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 35 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 145. The amino acids at residues 35 and 145 can be substituted with any suitable amino acid. The amino acid at residue 35 preferably is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A). The amino acid at residue 145 preferably is substituted with leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

[0069] In another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 160. The amino acids at residues 34 and 160 can be substituted with any suitable amino acid. The amino acid at residue 34 preferably is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D). The amino acid at residue 160 preferably is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D).

[0070] In another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 43 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 120. The amino acids at residues 43 and 120 can be substituted with any suitable amino acid. The amino acid at residue 43 preferably is substituted with proline (P). The amino acid at residue 120 preferably is substituted with arginine (R). [0071] In yet another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least two amino acid substitutions, wherein at least one substitution is at residue 57 and at least one substitution is at residue 145 or 81. These residues can be substituted alone, or in any combination (e.g., substitution of residues 57 and 145 or substitution of residues 57 and 81). Preferably, the amino acid at residue 57 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A). When the amino acid at residue 145 is substituted, preferably it is substituted with leucine (L) or isoleucine (I). When the amino acid at residue 81 is substituted, preferably it is substituted with tyrosine (Y) or tryptophan (W).

[0072] In still another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 82. The amino acids at residues 156 and 82 can be substituted with any suitable amino acid. The amino acid at residue 156 preferably is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A). The amino acid at residue 82 preferably is substituted with leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

[0073] In another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encode, s a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34. The amino acids at residues 156 and 34 can be substituted with any suitable amino acid. The amino acid at residue 156 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A). The amino acid at residue 34 preferably is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D).

[0074] In another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 157. The amino acids at residues 156 and 157 can be substituted with any suitable amino acid. The amino acid at residue 156 preferably is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A). The amino acid at residue 120 preferably is substituted with arginine (R) or asparagine (N).

[0075] In yet another embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by at least one amino acid substitution at residues 10, 82, and 156. These residues can be substituted alone, or in any combination. In a preferred embodiment, the nucleic acid molecule encodes a functional AID mutant whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of wild-type AID by amino acid substitutions at residues 10, 82, and 156. In embodiments where the amino acids at residues 10, 82, and 156 are substituted, it may also be desirable to include amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 15, 18, 30, 34, 35, 36, 44, 53, 59, 66, 74, 77, 88, 93, 100, 104, 115, 118, 120 142, 145, 157, 160, 184, 185, 188, 192 or combinations thereof. In particular, (a) the amino acid substitution at residue 9 can be serine (S), methionine (M), or tryptophan (W), (b) the amino acid substitution at residue 10 can be glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), (c) the amino acid substitution at residue 15 can be tyrosine (Y) or leucine (L), (d) the amino acid substitution at residue 18 can be alanine (A) or leucine (L), (e) the amino acid substitution at residue 30 can be tyrosine (Y) or serine (S), (f) the amino acid substitution at residue 34 can be glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), (g) the amino acid substitution at residue 35 can be serine (S) or lysine (K), (h) the amino acid substitution at residue 36 can be cysteine (C), (i) the amino acid substitution at residue 44 can be arginine (R) or lysine (K), (j) the amino acid substitution at residue 53 can be tyrosine (Y) or glutamine (Q), (k) the amino acid substitution at residue 57 can be alanine (A) or leucine (L), (1) the amino acid substitution at residue 59 can be methionine (M) or alanine (A), (m) the amino acid substitution at residue 66 can be threonine (T) or alanine (A), (n) the amino acid substitution at residue 74 can be histidine (H) or lysine (K), (o) the amino acid substitution at residue 77 can be serine (S) or lysine (K), (p) the amino acid substitution at residue 82 can be isoleucine (I) or leucine (L), (q) the amino acid substitution at residue 88 can be serine (S) or threonine (T), (r) the amino acid substitution at residue 93 can be leucine (L), arginine (R), or lysine (K), (s) the amino acid substitution at residue 100 can be glutamic acid (E), tryptophan (W), or phenylalanine F, (t) the amino acid substitution at residue 104 can be isoleucine (I) or alanine (A), (u) the amino acid substitution at residue 115 can be tyrosine (Y) or leucine (L), (v) the amino acid substitution at residue 118 can be glutamic acid (E) or valine (V), (x) the amino acid substitution at residue 120 can be arginine (R) or leucine (L), (y) the amino acid substitution at residue 142 can be glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), (z) the amino acid substitution at residue 145 can be leucine (L) or tyrosine (Y), (aa) the amino acid substitution at residue 156 can be glycine (G) or alanine (A), (bb) the amino acid substitution at residue 157 can be glycine (G) or lysine (K), (cc) the amino acid substitution at residue 160 can be glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), (dd) the amino acid substitution at residue 184 can be asparagine (N) or glutamine (Q), (ee) the amino acid substitution at residue 185 can be glycine (G) or aspartic acid (D), (ff) the amino acid substitution at residue 188 can be glycine (G) or glutamic acid (E), and (gg) the amino acid substitution at residue 192 can be threonine (T) or serine (S). [0076] The functional AID mutant protein can differ from a wild-type AID protein by any of the amino acid substitutions disclosed herein, alone or in any combination. Alternatively, the functional AID mutant protein can have additional amino acid substitutions as compared to a wild-type AID amino acid sequence (e.g., a human AID amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: T). For example, a functional AID mutant protein can have any one, or combination of, the following amino acid substitutions with respect to SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2: N7K, R8Q, Q14H, R25H, Y48H, N52S, H156R, R158K, L198A, R9K, GlOOW, A138G, S173T, T195I, F42C, A138G, H156R, L198F M6K, KlOQ, A39P, N52A, E118D, KlOL, Q14N, N52M, D67A, GlOOA, V135A, Y145F, R171H, Q175K, R194K,insertion of K after residue 118, and D119E. [0077] The invention also provides nucleic acid molecules encoding functional AID mutants comprising a C-terminal truncation mutation. The generation of a C-terminal truncation mutation is within the ordinary skill in the art, and can be performed, for example, according to the methods described above for generating AID mutants. For example, the C-terminal truncation mutation can be generated by the insertion of a stop codon at or distal to residue 181 of the AID amino acid sequence. [0078] Examples of preferred amino acid substitutions that produce functional AID mutant proteins in the context of the invention are illustrated in FIG. 2. [0079] In the context of the invention, a functional AID mutant also includes a nucleic acid sequence encoding a wild-type AID protein in which a portion of the nucleic acid sequence is deleted and replaced with a nucleic acid sequence from an AID homolog (e.g., Apobec-1, Apobec3C or Apobec3G). In this respect, the human APOBEC3 proteins, like human AID, are able to deaminate cytosine (C) in DNA but, whereas AID prefers to target C residues flanked by a 5 '-flanking purine, the APOBEC3s prefer a 5'-pyrimidine flank, with individual APOBEC3s differing with regard to the specific 5 '-flanking nucleotide preference. Comparison of human APOBEC3 gene sequences suggests that a stretch of around eight amino acids located about 60 residues from the carboxy terminal end of the protein domain plays an important role in determining this flanking nucleotide preference. In view of the crystal structure of APOBEC2 and the crystal structure of the TadA tRNA- adenosine deaminase in complex with an oligonucleotide substrate , this 60- amino acid sequence in both AID and APOBEC3s likely forms a contact with the DNA substrate . Therefore, in one embodiment of the invention, a functional AID mutant can comprise a nucleic acid sequence encoding a wild-type AID protein in which amino acid residues 115- 223 of human AID are removed and replaced with the corresponding sequence from APOBEC3 proteins (e.g., APOBEC3C, APOBec3F, and APOBEC3G). [0080] The invention further provides nucleic acid molecules encoding a fusion protein comprising a functional AID mutant and a second polypeptide fused together in frame. For example, the generation of fusion proteins is within the ordinary skill in the art and can involve the use of restriction enzymes or recombinational cloning techniques. [0081] In one embodiment, the second polypeptide of the fusion protein may comprise a "nuclear localization signal," or "NLS." The terms "nuclear localization signal" and "NLS" refer to a domain, or domains capable of mediating the nuclear import of a protein or polynucleotide, or retention thereof, within the nucleus of a cell. A "strong nuclear import signal" represents a domain or domains capable of mediating greater than 90% subcellular localization in the nucleus when operatively linked to a protein of interest. Representative examples of NLSs include but are not limited to, monopartite nuclear localization signals, bipartite nuclear localization signals and N and C-terminal motifs. N terminal basic domains usually conform to the consensus sequence K-K/R-X-K/R which was first discovered in the SV40 large T antigen and which represents a monopartite NLS. One non- limiting example of an N-terminal basic domain NLS is PKKKRKV (SEQ ID NO: 76). Also known are bipartite nuclear localization signals which contain two clusters of basic amino acids separated by a spacer of about 10 amino acids, as exemplified by the NLS from nucleoplasm^: KR[PAATKKAGQA]KKKK (SEQ ID NO: 77). N and C-terminal motifs include, for example, the acidic M9 domain of hnRNP Al, the sequence KIPIK (SEQ ID NO: 78) in yeast transcription repressor Matα2 and the complex signals of U snRNPs. Most of these NLSs appear to be recognized directly by specific receptors of the importin β family.

[0082] In another embodiment, the second polypeptide may be a fusion partner known in the art to facilitate the purification and improve the solubility of the polypeptide to which it is fused, for example, polyhistidine tag, NusA, bacterioferritin (BFR), GrpE, thioredoxin (TRX) or glutathione-S-transferase (GST). The purification of fusion proteins is within the ordinary skill in the art.

[0083] In yet another embodiment, the second polypeptide may be a reporter polypeptide such as an autofluorescent protein (e.g., GFP, EGFP). Autofluorescent proteins provide a ready assay for identification of expression of a polynucleotide (and the polypeptide product) of interest. Because the activity of the reporter polypeptide (and by inference its expression level) can be monitored quantitatively using a flow sorter, many independent transfectants can be assayed either sequentially or in bulk population. Cells with the best expression can then be screened for or selected from the population. This is useful when selecting a recombinant cell comprising a functional AID mutant according to the present invention. [0084] In a further embodiment of the invention, the nucleic acid molecules encoding the functional AID mutants of the invention may be codon optimized to reduce or increase the number of somatic hypermutation (SHM) motifs. As used herein, "somatic hypermutation" or "SHM" refers to the mutation of a polynucleotide sequence initiated by, or associated with the action of AID, a functional AID mutant, uracil glycosylase and / or error prone polymerases on that polynucleotide sequence. The term is intended to include mutagenesis that occurs as a consequence of the error prone repair of the initial lesion, including mutagenesis mediated by the mismatch repair machinery and related enzymes. [0085] The term "substrate for SHM" refers to a synthetic or semi- synthetic polynucleotide sequence which is acted upon by AID and/or error prone DNA polymerases to effect a change in the nucleic acid sequence of the synthetic or semi-synthetic polynucleotide sequence.

[0086] As used herein, the term "SHM hot spot" or "hot spot" refers to a polynucleotide sequence, or motif, of 3-6 nucleotides that exhibits an increased tendency to undergo somatic hypermutation, as determined via a statistical analysis of SHM mutations in antibody genes. Likewise, as used herein, a "SHM coldspot" or "cold spot" refers to a polynucleotide or motif, of 3-6 nucleotides that exhibits a decreased tendency to undergo somatic hypermutation, as determined via a statistical analysis of SHM mutations in antibody genes . A relative ranking of various motifs for SHM as well as canonical hot spots and cold spots in antibody genes are described in U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publication WO 08/103475, and the statistical analysis can be extrapolated to analysis of SHM mutations in non-antibody genes (e.g., AID genes) as described therein.

[0087] The term "somatic hypermutation motif or "SHM motif refers to a polynucleotide sequence that includes, or can be altered to include, one or more hot spots or cold spots, and which encodes a defined set of amino acids. SHM motifs can be of any size, but are conveniently based around polynucleotides of about 2 to about 20 nucleotides in size, or from about 3 to about 9 nucleotides in size. SHM motifs can include any combination of hot spots and cold spots, or may lack both hot spots and cold spots. [0088] The terms "preferred hot spot SHM codon," "preferred hot spot SHM motif," "preferred SHM hot spot codon" and "preferred SHM hot spot motif," all refer to a codon including, but not limited to codons AAC, TAC, TAT, AGT, or AGC. Such sequences may be potentially embedded within the context of a larger SHM motif, recruits SHM mediated mutagenesis and generates targeted amino acid diversity at that codon. [0089] As used herein, a nucleic acid sequence has been "optimized for SHM" if the nucleic acid sequence, or a portion thereof has been altered to increase or decrease the frequency and/ or location of hot spots and/or cold spots within the nucleic acid sequence. A nucleic acid sequence that has been made "susceptible to SHM" if the nucleic acid sequence, or a portion thereof, has been altered to increase the frequency and/or location of hot spots within the nucleic acid sequence or to decrease the frequency (density) and/or location of cold spots within the nucleic acid sequence. Conversely, a nucleic acid sequence has been made "resistant to SHM" if the nucleic acid sequence, or a portion thereof, has been altered to decrease the frequency (density) and / or location of hot spots within the open reading frame of the nucleic acid sequence. In general, a sequence can be prepared that has a greater or lesser propensity to undergo SHM mediated mutagenesis by altering the codon usage, and / or the amino acids encoded by nucleic acid sequence. [0090] Optimization of a nucleic acid sequence refers to modifying about 1%, about 2%, about 3%, about 4%, about 5%, about 10%, about 20%, about 25%, about 50%, about 75%, about 90%, about 95%, about 96%, about 97%, about 98%, about 99%, about 100%, or any range therein, of the nucleotides in the nucleic acid sequence. Optimization of a polynucleotide sequence also refers to modifying about 1, about 2, about 3, about 4, about 5, about 10, about 20, about 25, about 50, about 75, about 90, about 95, about 96, about 97, about 98, about 99, about 100, about 200, about 300, about 400, about 500, about 750, about 1000, about 1500, about 2000, about 2500, about 3000 or more, or any range therein, of the nucleotides in the nucleic acid sequence such that some or all of the nucleotides are optimized for SHM-mediated mutagenesis. Reduction in the frequency (density) of hot spots and/or cold spots refers to reducing about 1%, about 2%, about 3%, about 4%, about 5%, about 10%, about 20%, about 25%, about 50%, about 75%, about 90%, about 95%, about 96%, about 97%, about 98%, about 99%, about 100%, or any range therein, of the hot spots or cold spots in a nucleic acid sequence. Increasing the frequency (density) of hot spots and/or cold spots refers to increasing about 1%, about 2%, about 3%, about 4%, about 5%, about 10%, about 20%, about 25%, about 50%, about 75%, about 90%, about 95%, about 96%, about 97%, about 98%, about 99%, about 100%, or any range therein, of the hot spots or cold spots in a nucleic acid sequence.

[0091] The position or reading frame of a hot spot or cold spot is also a factor governing whether SHM mediated mutagenesis that can result in a mutation that is silent with regards to the resulting amino acid sequence, or causes conservative, semi-conservative or non conservative changes at the amino acid level. The design parameters can be manipulated to further enhance the relative susceptibility or resistance of a nucleotide sequence to SHM. Thus both the degree of SHM recruitment and the reading frame of the motif are considered in the design of SHM susceptible and SHM resistant nucleic acid sequences. [0092] The invention also provides a vector comprising a nucleic acid molecule encoding a functional AID mutant. A "vector" or "cloning vector" is a replicon, such as plasmid, phage or cosmid, into which another polynucleotide segment may be introduced so as to bring about the replication of the inserted segment. Vectors typically exist as circular, double stranded DNA, and range in size form a few kilobases (kb) to hundreds of kb. Preferred cloning vectors have been modified from naturally occurring plasmids to facilitate the cloning and recombinant manipulation of polynucleotide sequences. Many such vectors are well known in the art; see for example, Sambrook et al, "Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual," second edition, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, (1989), and Maniatis et al., Cell Biology: A Comprehensive Treatise, Vol. 3, Gene Sequence Expression, Academic Press, NY, pp. 563-608(1980).

[0093] The term "expression vector" as used herein, refers to vector used for expressing certain polynucleotides within a host cell or in vitro expression system. The term includes plasmids, episomes, cosmids, retroviruses or phages. The expression vector can be used to express a DNA sequence encoding a desired protein and in one aspect includes a transcriptional unit comprising an assembly of expression control sequences. The choice of promoter and other regulatory elements generally varies according to the intended host cell, or in vitro expression system.

[0094] As used herein an "m vitro expression system" refers to cell free systems that enable the transcription, or coupled transcription and translation of DNA templates. Such systems include, for example, the rabbit reticulocyte system, as well as novel cell-free synthesis systems, (/. Biotechnol., 110: 257-63 (2004); Biotechnol. Annu. Rev., 10: 1-30 (2004)).

[0095] "Expression control sequences" are DNA regulatory sequences, such as promoters, enhancers, polyadenylation signals, transcription terminators, internal ribosome entry sites (IRES), and the like, that provide for the expression of a coding sequence in a host cell. Exemplary expression control sequences are known in the art and described in Goeddel; Gene Expression Technology: Methods in Enzymology 185, Academic Press, San Diego, Calif. (1990).

[0096] A "promoter" is a DNA sequence capable of binding RNA polymerase in a cell and initiating transcription of a downstream (3' direction) coding sequence. As used herein, the promoter sequence is bounded at its 3' terminus by the transcription initiation site and extends upstream (5' direction) to include the minimum number of bases or elements necessary to initiate transcription at levels detectable above background. Within the promoter sequence will be found a transcription initiation site (conveniently defined by mapping with nuclease Sl), as well as protein binding domains (consensus sequences) responsible for the binding of RNA polymerase. Eukaryotic promoters will often, but not always, contain "TATA" boxes and "CAT" boxes. Prokaryotic promoters contain Shine- Dalgarno sequences in addition to the -10 and -35 consensus sequences. [0097] A large number of promoters, including constitutive, inducible, and repressible promoters, from a variety of different sources are well known in the art. Representative sources include for example, viral, mammalian, insect, plant, yeast, and bacterial cell types), and suitable promoters from these sources are readily available, or can be made synthetically, based on sequences publicly available on line or, for example, from depositories such as the ATCC as well as other commercial or individual sources. Promoters can be unidirectional (i.e., initiate transcription in one direction) or bi-directional (i.e., initiate transcription in either a 3' or 5' direction). Non-limiting examples of promoters include, for example, the T7 bacterial expression system, pBAD (araA) bacterial expression system, the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter, the SV40 promoter, the RSV promoter. Inducible promoters include the Tet system, (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,464,758 and 5,814,618), the Ecdysone inducible system (No et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL, 93: 3346-3351 (1996); the T-REx™ system (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA), LacSwitch® (Stratagene, San Diego, CA) and the Cre-ERT tamoxifen inducible recombinase system (Indra et al., Nuc. Acid. Res., 27: A32A-A321 (1999); Nuc. Acid. Res., 28: e99 (2000); U.S. Patent 7,112,715). See generally, Kramer & Fussenegger, Methods MoI. Biol, 308: 123-144 (2005)) or any promoter known in the art suitable for expression in the desired cells. [0098] If an inducible system is used, such as the Tet-controlled system, doxycycline can be added to the medium to induce expression of the nucleic acid encoding a functional AID mutant for a period of time (e.g., 1 hour (hr), 2 hrs, 4 hrs, 6 hrs, 8 hrs, 10 hrs, 15 hrs, 20 hrs, 24 hrs or any other time) prior to analysis by an appropriate assay. The cells can be allowed to grow for a certain time to provide for on-going diversification, for example, for 1-3 cell generations, or in certain cases 3-6 generations, or in some cases 6 to 10 generations, or longer.

[0099] As used herein, a "minimal promoter" refers to a partial promoter sequence which defines the transcription start site but which by itself is not capable, if at all, of initiating transcription efficiently. The activity of such minimal promoters depends on the binding of activators such as a tetracycline-controlled transactivator to operably linked binding sites.

[00100] The terms "IRES" or "internal ribosome entry site" refer to a polynucleotide element that acts to enhance the translation of a coding sequence encoded with a. polycistronic messenger RNA. IRES elements, mediate the initiation of translation by directly recruiting and binding ribosomes to a messenger RNA (mRNA) molecule, bypassing the 7-methyl guanosine-cap involved in typical ribosome scanning. The presence of an IRES sequence can increase the level of cap-independent translation of a desired protein. Early publications descriptively refer to IRES sequences as "translation enhancers." For example, cardioviral RNA "translation enhancers" are described in U.S. Patent Nos. 4,937,190 and 5,770,428.

[00101] The term "enhancer" as used herein, refers to a DNA sequence that increases transcription of, for example, a gene or coding sequence to which it is operably linked. Enhancers can be located many kilobases away from the coding sequence and can mediate the binding of regulatory factors, patterns of DNA methylation or changes in DNA structure. A large number of enhancers, from a variety of different sources are well known in the art and available as or within cloned polynucleotides (from, e.g., depositories such as the ATCC as well as other commercial or individual sources). A number of polynucleotides comprising promoters (such as the commonly-used CMV promoter) also comprise enhancer sequences. Operably linked enhancers can be located upstream, within, or downstream of coding sequences. The term "Ig enhancers" refers to enhancer elements derived from enhancer regions mapped within the Ig locus (such enhancers include for example, the heavy chain (mu) 5' enhancers, light chain (kappa) 5' enhancers, kappa and mu intronic enhancers, and 3' enhancers, (see generally Paul WE (ed) Fundamental Immunology, 3rd Edition, Raven Press, New York (1993) pages 353-363; U.S. Patent 5,885,827). [00102] "Terminator sequences" are those that result in termination of transcription. Termination sequences are known in the art and include, but are not limited to, poly A (e.g., Bgh Poly A and SV40 Poly A) terminators. A transcriptional termination signal will typically include a region of 3' untranslated region ( or "3' ut"), an optional intron (also referred to as intervening sequence or "IVS") and one or more poly adenylation signals Cp(A)" or "pA." Terminator sequences may also be referred to as "IVS-pA," "IVS+p(A)," "3' ut+p(A)"or "3' ut/p(A)." Natural or synthetic terminators can be used as a terminator region.

[00103] The terms "polyadenylation," "polyadenylation sequence" and "polyadenylation signal", "Poly A," "p(A)" or "pA" refer to a nucleic acid sequence present in a RNA transcript that allows for the transcript, when in the presence of the polyadenyl transferase enzyme, to be polyadenylated. Many polyadenylation signals are known in the art. Non- limiting examples include the human variant growth hormone polyadenylation signal, the SV40 late polyadenylation signal and the bovine growth hormone polyadenylation signal. [00104] An "episomal expression vector" is able to replicate in a host cell, and persists as an extrachromosomal segment of DNA within the host cell in the presence of appropriate selective pressure (see, e.g., Conese et al., Gene Therapy 11: 1735-1742 (2004)). Representative commercially available episomal expression vectors include, but are not limited to, episomal plasmids that utilize Epstein Barr Nuclear Antigen 1 (EBNAl) and the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) origin of replication (oriP). The vectors pREP4, pCEP4, pREP7 from Invitrogen, pcDNA3.1 from Invitrogen, and pBK-CMV from Stratagene represent non-limiting examples of an episomal vector that uses T-antigen and the SV40 origin of replication in lieu of EBNAl and oriP.

[0100] An "integrating expression vector" may randomly integrate into the host cell's DNA, or may include a recombination site to enable the specific recombination between the expression vector and the host cells chromosome. Such integrating expression vectors may utilize the endogenous expression control sequences of the host cell's chromosomes to effect expression of the desired protein. Examples of vectors that integrate in a site specific manner include, for example, components of the flp-in system from Invitrogen (e.g., pcDNA™5/FRT), or the cre-lox system, such as can be found in the pExchange-6 Core Vectors from Stratagene. Examples of vectors that integrate into host cell chromosomes in a random fashion include, for example, pcDNA3.1 (when introduced in the absence of T- antigen) from Invitrogen, pCI or pFNIOA (ACT) Flexi® from Promega. [0101] Representative commercially available viral expression vectors include, but are not limited to, the adenovirus-based Per.C6 system available from Crucell, Inc., the lentiviral-based pLPl from Invitrogen, and the Retroviral Vectors pFB-ERV plus pCFB- EGSH from Stratagene.

[0102] Alternatively, the expression vector may be used to introduce and integrate a strong promoter or enhancer sequences into a locus in the cell so as to modulate the expression of an endogenous gene of interest (Capecchi MR. Nat Rev Genet., 6(6): 507-12 (2005); Schindehutte et al., Stem Cells, 23(1): 10-5 (2005)). This approach can also be used to insert an inducible promoter, such as the Tet-On promoter (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,464,758 and 5,814,618), in to the genomic DNA of the cell so as to provide inducible expression of an endogenous gene of interest. The activating construct can also include targeting sequence(s) to enable homologous or non-homologous recombination of the activating sequence into a desired locus specific for the gene of interest (see, e.g., Garcia-Otin and Guillou, Front. BioscL, 11: 1108-36 (2006)). Alternatively, an inducible recombinase system, such as the Cre-ER system, can be used to activate a transgene in the presence of 4- hydroxytamoxifen. (Indra et al., Nuc. Acid. Res., 27(22): 4324-4327 (1999); Nuc. Acid. Res., 28(23): e99 (2000); U.S. Patent 7,112,715).

[0103] The vector of the present invention may comprise a "selectable marker gene." The term "selectable marker gene" as used herein, refers to polynucleotides that allow cells carrying the polynucleotide to be specifically selected for or against, in the presence of a corresponding selective agent. Selectable markers can be positive, negative or bifunctional. Positive selectable markers allow selection for cells carrying the marker, whereas negative selectable markers allow cells carrying the marker to be selectively eliminated. The selectable marker polynucleotide can either be directly linked to the polynucleotides to be expressed, or introduced into the same cell by co-transfection. A variety of such marker polynucleotides have been described, including, for example, bifunctional (i.e., positive/negative) markers (see, e.g., International Patent Application Publications WO 92/08796 and WO 94/28143), drug-resistance genes (e.g., ampicillin), and proteins that confer resistance to cytostatic or cytocidal drugs (e.g., the DHFR protein) (see, e.g., Wigler et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 77: 3567 (1980), O'Hare et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 78: 1527 (1981), Mulligan & Berg, Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 78: 2072 (1981), Colberre-Garapin et al., J. MoI. Biol., 150: 1 (1981), Santerre et al., Gene, 30: 147 (1984), Kent et al., Science, 237: 901-903 (1987), Wigler et al., Cell, 11: 223 (1977), Szybalska & Szybalski, Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 48:2026 (1962), Lowy et al., Cell, 22:817 (1980), and U.S. Patent Nos. 5,122,464 and 5,770,359).

[0104] The vector may comprise a "reporter gene." A "reporter gene" refers to a polynucleotide that confers the ability to be specifically detected, (or detected and selected) typically when expressed with a cell of interest. Numerous reporter gene systems are known in the art and include, for example alkaline phosphatase (Berger, J., et al., Gene, 66: 1-10 (1988); Kain, SR., Methods MoI. Biol, 63: 49-60 (1997)), beta-galactosidase (U.S. Patent 5,070,012), chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (Gorman et al., MoI. Cell. Biol, 2: 1044-51 (1982)), beta glucuronidase, peroxidase, beta lactamase (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,741,657 and 5,955,604), catalytic antibodies, luciferases (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,221,623; 5,683,888; 5,674,713; 5,650,289; and 5,843,746) and naturally fluorescent proteins (Tsien, RY, Annu. Rev. Biochem., 67: 509-544 (1998)). The term "reporter gene," also includes any peptide which can be specifically detected based on the use of one or more, antibodies, epitopes, binding partners, substrates, modifying enzymes, receptors, or ligands that are capable of, or desired to (or desired not to), interact with the peptide of interest to create a detectable signal. Reporter genes also include genes that can modulate cellular phenotype. The reporter protein, when served for such detection purpose, does not have to be fused with the mutant AID protein. It may be encoded by the same polynucleotide (e.g., a vector) which also encodes the mutant AID protein and be co-introduced and co-expressed in a target cell. [0105] Expression vectors may also include anti- sense, ribozymes or siRNA polynucleotides to reduce the expression of target sequences (see, e.g., Sioud M, & Iversen, Curr. Drug Targets, 6: 647-53 (2005); Sandy et al., Biotechniques, 39:215-24 (2005)). [0106] The invention also provides a cell comprising a nucleic acid molecule encoding a functional AID mutant or a vector comprising the nucleic acid molecule encoding a functional AID mutant. The terms "cells," "cell cultures," "cell line," "recombinant host cells," "recipient cells," and "host cells" are often used interchangeably and include primary subject cells and any progeny thereof, without regard to the number of transfers. It should be understood that not all progeny are exactly identical to the parental cell (due to deliberate or inadvertent mutations or differences in environment). However, such altered progeny are included in these terms, so long as the progeny retain the same functionality as that of the originally transformed cell. For example, though not limited to, such a characteristic might be the ability to produce a particular recombinant protein. A "mutator positive cell line" is a cell line containing cellular factors that are sufficient to work in combination with other vector elements to effect hypermutation. The cell line can be any of those known in the art or described herein. A "clone" is a population of cells derived from a single cell or common ancestor by mitosis.

[0107] Cell-based expression and hypermutation systems include any suitable prokaryotic or eukaryotic expression systems. Preferred systems are those that can be easily and reliably grown, have reasonably fast growth rates, have well characterized expression systems and can be transformed or transfected easily and efficiently. [0108] Useful microbial cells include, but are not limited to, cells from the genera Bacillus, Escherichia (such as E. colϊ), Pseudomonas, Streptomyces, Salmonella, Erwinia, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus brevis. Particularly useful prokaryotic cells include the various strains of Escherichia coli (e.g., K12, HBlOl, (ATCC NO. 33694) DH5α, DHlO, MC1061 (ATCC NO. 53338), and CC102).

[0109] Many strains of yeast cells known to those skilled in the art are also available as host cells for the expression of polypeptides including those from the genera Hansenula, Kluyveromyces, Pichia, Rhino-sporidium, Saccharomyces, and Schizosaccharomyces, and other fungi. Preferred yeast cells include, for example, Saccharomyces cerivisae and Pichia pastoris.

[0110] Additionally, where desired, insect cell systems can be utilized in the methods of the present invention. Such systems are described, for example, by Kitts et al., Biotechniques, 14: 810-817 (1993); Lucklow, Curr. Opin. Biotechnol., 4: 564-572 (1993); and Lucklow et al., /. Virol, 67: 4566-4579 (1993). Preferred insect cells include Sf-9 and HI5 (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, Calif.).

[0111] The cell comprising the nucleic acid encoding a functional AID mutant preferably is a mammalian cell. A number of suitable mammalian host cells are also known in the art and many are available from the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC, Manassas, VA). Examples of suitable mammalian cells include, but are not limited to, Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO) (ATCC No. CCL61) CHO DHFR-cells (Urlaub et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 97: 4216-4220 (1980)), human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 or 293T cells (ATCC No. CRL1573), and 3T3 cells (ATCC No. CCL92). The selection of suitable mammalian host cells and methods for transformation, culture, amplification, screening and product production and purification are known in the art. Other suitable mammalian cell lines are the monkey COS-I (ATCC No. CRL1650) and COS-7 cell lines (ATCC No. CRL1651), and the CV-I cell line (ATCC No. CCL70). Further exemplary mammalian host cells include primate cell lines and rodent cell lines, including transformed cell lines. Normal diploid cells, cell strains derived from in vitro culture of primary tissue, as well as primary explants, are also suitable. Candidate cells can be genotypically deficient in the selection gene, or can contain a dominantly acting selection gene. Other suitable mammalian cell lines include, but are not limited to, mouse neuroblastoma N2A cells, HeLa, mouse L-929 cells, 3T3 lines derived from Swiss, Balb-c or NIH mice, BHK or HaK hamster cell lines, which are available from the ATCC.

[0112] Also within the scope of the invention are lymphoid, or lymphoid derived cell lines, such as a cell line of pre-B lymphocyte origin. Specific examples include without limitation RAMOS (CRL-1596), Daudi (CCL-213), EB-3 (CCL-85), DT40 (CRL-2111), 18-81 (Jack et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 85: 1581-1585 (1988)), Raji cells (CCL-86), and derivatives thereof.

[0113] A functional AID mutant of the present invention may be introduced into a cell by "transfection," "transformation," or "transduction." "Transfection," "transformation," or "transduction" as used herein, refers to the introduction of one or more exogenous polynucleotides into a host cell by using one or physical or chemical methods. Many transfection techniques are known to those of ordinary skill in the art including but not limited to calcium phosphate DNA co-precipitation (see Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol. 7, Gene Transfer and Expression Protocols, Ed. E. J. Murray, Humana Press (1991)); DEAE-dextran; electroporation; cationic liposome-mediated transfection; tungsten particle- facilitated microparticle bombardment (Johnston, S. A., Nature, 346: 116-111 (1990)); and strontium phosphate DNA co-precipitation (Brash D. E. et al. Molec. Cell. Biol, 7: 2031- 2034 (1987). Phage or retroviral vectors can be introduced into host cells, after growth of infectious particles in packaging cells that are commercially available. [0114] The invention also provides a method for preparing a gene product having a desired property, which method comprises expressing a nucleic acid encoding the gene product in a population of cells, wherein the population of cells expresses, or can be induced to express, a functional AID mutant protein of the present invention, whereupon expression of the functional AID mutant protein induces a mutation in the nucleic acid encoding the gene product. Descriptions of the functional AID mutant, cells, and methods of transfecting and expressing nucleic acid molecules into cells set forth above in connection with other embodiments of the invention also are applicable to those same aspects of the aforesaid method.

[0115] Desirably, the functional AID mutant protein induces a mutation in the nucleic acid encoding the gene product by way of somatic hypermutation (SHM). The use of AID in SHM systems is described in detail in U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publications WO/08103474 and WO 08/103475. As used herein, the term "gene product of interest" or "protein of interest" relates to proteins, or portions thereof, for which it is desired that the nucleic acid encoding the gene product is optimized for SHM by a functional AID mutant in order to rapidly create, select, and identify improved variants of that gene product. Such optimized nucleic acid sequences can be made more susceptible to SHM as a result of codon usage (as described herein), thereby inducing amino acid changes when the polynucleotide is subjected to a functional AID mutant, and screened for improved function. Conversely, such optimized nucleic acid sequences can be made more resistant to SHM (as described herein), thereby decreasing amino acid changes when the polynucleotide is subjected to a functional AID mutant as a result of codon usage, and screened for improved function.

[0116] Any protein for which the amino acid, or corresponding nucleotide sequence is known, or available (e.g., can be cloned into a vector as described herein), and a phenotype or function can be improved, is a candidate for use in the inventive method. Examples of suitable proteins include, for example, surface proteins, intracellular proteins, membrane proteins, and secreted proteins from any unmodified or synthetic source. The gene product preferably is an antibody heavy chain or portion thereof, an antibody light chain or portion thereof, an enzyme, a receptor, a structural protein, a co-factor, a polypeptide, a peptide, an intrabody, a selectable marker, a toxin, growth factor, peptide hormone, or any other protein which can be optimized.

[0117] The gene product can be any suitable enzyme, including enzymes associated with microbiological fermentation, metabolic pathway engineering, protein manufacture, bio-remediation, and plant growth and development (see, e.g., Olsen et al., Methods MoI. Biol, 230: 329-349 (2003); Turner, Trends Biotechnol, 21(11): 474-478 (2003); Zhao et al., Curr. Opin. Biotechnol, 13(2): 104-110 (2002); and Mastrobattista et al., Chem. Biol, 12(12): 1291-300 (2005)).

[0118] Suitable receptors for use in the inventive method include, but are not limited to, cell-bound receptors such as antibodies (B cell receptors), T cell receptors, Fc receptors, G- coupled protein receptors, cytokine receptors, carbohydrate receptors, and Avimer™ based receptors. Such receptors can be altered through SHM to improve one or more of the following traits; affinity, avidity, selectivity, thermostability, proteolytic stability, solubility, dimerization, folding, immunotoxicity, coupling to signal transduction cascades and expression.

[0119] Suitable gene products for use in the inventive method also include molecules capable of modulating the pharmacokinetics and/or pharmacodynamics of other biologically active proteins, e.g., lipids and polymers such as polyamines, polyamides, polyethylene glycol and other polyethers. Other examples of suitable gene products for use in the inventive method include polypeptides such as VEGF, VEGF receptor, Diptheria toxin subunit A, B. pertussis toxin, CC chemokines (e.g., CCL1-CCL28), CXC chemokines (e.g., CXCLl - CXCL16), C chemokines (e.g., XCLl and XCL2) and CX3C chemokines (e.g., CX3CL1), IFN-gamma, IFN-alpha, IFN-beta, TNF-alpha, TNF-beta, IL-I, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-7, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, IL-15, TGF-beta, TGF-alpha, GM-CSF, G-CSF, M- CSF, TPO, EPO, human growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, nuclear co-factors, Jak and Stat family members, G-protein signaling molecules such as chemokine receptors, JNK, Fos-Jun, NF-κB, I-KB, CD40, CD4, CD8, B7, CD28, and CTLA-4. Methods for selecting a gene product (e.g., protein) of interest as a suitable candidate for mutation and optimization via SHM, as well as related screening assays, are further disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publications WO/08103474 and WO 08/103475.

[0120] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the nucleic acid sequence that is subject to mutation by the functional AID mutant protein encodes an antibody, or a portion thereof. Nucleic acid sequences encoding all naturally occurring germline, affinity matured, synthetic, or semi-synthetic antibodies, as well as fragments thereof, may be used in the present invention. In general, such antibody-encoding sequences can be altered through SHM to improve one or more of the following functional traits: affinity, avidity, selectivity, thermostability, proteolytic stability, solubility, folding, immunotoxicity and expression. Depending upon the antibody format, libraries can be generated which comprise separate heavy chain and light chain libraries that can be co-expressed in a host cell. In certain embodiments, full length antibodies can be secreted (or released), and/or surface displayed at the plasma membrane of the host cell. In still other embodiments, heavy and light chain libraries can be inserted in to the same expression vector, or different expression vectors to enable simultaneous co-evolution of both antibody chains.

[0121] Therefore, the inventive method provides the ability to bypass the need for immunization in vivo to select antibodies that bind to key surface epitopes that are aligned with producing the most robust biological effects on target protein function. Additionally, mammalian antibodies intrinsically process optimal codon usage patterns for targeted SHM, greatly simplifying template design strategies. For certain antigens, in vivo immunization leads to epitope selection that does not impact target function, thereby hindering the selection of potent and efficacious antibody candidates. In still other embodiments, the inventive method can provide for the rapid evolution of site-directed antibodies that have potent activity by nature of the role of that epitope in determining target protein function. This provides the ability to scan target proteins for optimal epitope position and produce best in class antibodies drugs for use in the clinic.

[0122] The inventive method can be used to increase the hotspot density in specific sub domains of antibodies or fragments thereof (e.g., F(ab')2, Fab', Fab, Fv, scFv, dsFv, dAb or a single chain binding polypeptide), which can result in an improvement in a characteristic (e.g., increased binding affinity, increased binding avidity, and/or decreased non-specific binding). The inventive method also can be used to generate synthetic antibodies with increased hotspots in the constant domain (e.g., Fc), which can result in increased binding affinity for an Fc receptor (FcR), thereby modulating signal cascades. Heavy chains and light chains, or portions thereof, can be simultaneously modified using the methods described herein.

[0123] Intrabodies can be modified using the inventive method to improve or enhance folding of the heavy and/or light chain in the reducing environment of the cytoplasm. Alternatively, or in addition, a sFv intrabody can be modified to stabilize frameworks that could fold properly in the absence of intradomain disulfide bonds. Intrabodies can also be modified to increase, for example, one or more of the following characteristics: binding affinity, binding avidity, epitope accessibility, competition with endogenous proteins for the target epitope, half-life, target sequestration, post-translational modification of the target protein, etc. Because intrabodies act within the cell, their activity is more analogous to assay methodologies for enzyme activity assays.

[0124] Methods for designing and creating antibody libraries, as well as methods for identifying optimal epitopes that provide for the selection of antibodies with superior selectivity, cross species reactivity, and blocking activity are known in the art (see, e.g., U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publications WO 08/103474 and WO 08/103475). Specific screens to detect and select surface exposed or secreted antibodies with improved traits, are well known in the art. Such screens can involve several rounds of selection based on the simultaneous selection of multiple parameters, for example, affinity, avidity, selectivity and thermostability in order to evolve the overall best antibody. [0125] It will be appreciated that there are a variety of other component nucleotide sequences, such as coding sequences and genetic elements, that one of ordinary skill in the art would prefer the functional mutant AID protein not mutate to maintain overall system integrity. These component nucleotide sequences are described herein and include, without limitation, (i) selectable markers, (ii) reporter genes, (iii) genetic regulatory signals, (iv) enzymes or accessory factors used for high level enhanced SHM, or its regulation, or measurement (e.g., AID or a functional AID mutant, pol eta, transcription factors, and MSH2, (v) signal transduction components (e.g., kinases, receptors, transcription factors), and (vi) domains or sub domains of proteins (e.g., nuclear localization signals, transmembrane domains, catalytic domains, protein-protein interaction domains, and other protein family conserved motifs, domains and sub-domains). [0126] Depending on the nature of the gene product of interest, and amount of information available on the gene product of interest, one of ordinary skill in the art can follow any combination of the following strategies prior to, or in conjunction with, practicing the inventive method to prepare a gene product of interest with a desired property.

[0127] 1. No SHM optimization: Although it can be desirable to enhance the number of hot spots within the nucleic acid sequence encoding a gene product of interest, it should be noted that any unmodified nucleic acid sequence is expected to undergo a certain amount of SHM, and can be used in the inventive method without optimization, or any specific knowledge of the actual sequence. Moreover, certain proteins (e.g., antibodies) naturally comprise nucleic acid sequences which have evolved suitable codon usage, and do not require codon modification. Alternatively, it can be desirable to enhance the number of cold spots within the nucleic acid sequence encoding a gene product of interest (e.g., framework regions of antibodies or fragments thereof).

[0128] 2. Global SHM Hot spot optimization: In some aspects, the number of hotspots in a nucleic acid sequence encoding a gene product can be increased, as described in detail in U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publication WO 08/103475. This approach can be applied to the entire coding region of the nucleic acid sequence, thereby rendering the entire nucleic acid sequence more susceptible to SHM. This approach can be preferred if relatively little is known about structure activity relationships of the gene product, or between related isotypes.

[0129] 3. Selective SHM hot spot modification: Alternatively, a nucleic acid sequence encoding the protein of interest can be selectively and/or systematically modified through the targeted replacement of regions of interest with synthetic variable regions as described in U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publication WO 08/103475, which provide for a high density of hot spots and seed maximal diversity through SHM at specific loci.

[0130] One of ordinary skill in the art would understand, based on the foregoing, that any or all of the above approaches can be undertaken in conjunction with the inventive method. Methods for global SHM hot spot optimization and selective SHM hot spot modification, however, are likely to lead to faster and more efficient optimization of protein function.

[0131] Following the design of an SHM-optimized nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product of interest, it can be synthesized using standard methodology and sequenced to confirm correct synthesis. Once the sequence of the nucleic acid sequence has been confirmed, the nucleic acid sequence can be inserted into a vector as described herein, and the vector can then be introduced into a host cell as described herein. Enhancers (e.g., Ig enhancers) can be inserted into a vector to increase expression, and/or targeting of SHM initiated by the functional AID mutant protein to the nucleic acid sequence encoding a gene product of interest.

[0132] In accordance with the inventive method, any of the vectors described herein can be co-transfected into a host cell with a separate vector containing the nucleic acid sequence encoding a functional AID mutant as described herein. In one aspect, the vectors described herein can be transfected into a host cell that contains (and expresses) an endogenous AID protein. In another aspect, the vectors described herein can be co-transfected into a host cell that contains an endogenous AID protein with a separate vector containing the nucleic acid sequence of a functional AID mutant such that the functional AID mutant is over-expressed in the cell. In yet another aspect, the vectors described herein can be modified to include a nucleic acid sequence encoding a functional AID mutant for transfection into a host cell that does, or does not, contain an endogenous AID protein. In a preferred embodiment the functional AID mutant is a synthetic AID that is encoded by a nucleic acid sequence that is SHM resistant.

[0133] Following introduction of one or more nucleic acids into an expression vector, the vector can be amplified, purified, introduced into a host cell using standard transfection techniques and characterized using standard molecular biological techniques. Purified plasmid DNA can be introduced into a host cell using standard transfection / transformation techniques and the resulting transformants / transfectants grown in appropriate medium containing antibiotics, selectable agents and / or activation/transactivator signals (e.g. inducible agents such as doxycycline) to induce expression of the nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product of interest. [0134] The inventive method can further comprise introducing into the cell or population of cells one or more of the following (i) at least one nucleic acid sequence that that has been altered in whole or part, from a corresponding wild-type nucleic acid sequence to positively influence the rate of SHM experienced by that nucleic acid sequence, or a nucleic acid sequence that has a naturally high percentage of hot spots prior to any modification, and/or ( ii) a nucleic acid sequence that has been altered, in whole or part, to negatively influence the rate of SHM.

[0135] In one aspect, the inventive method can further comprise introducing into the cell or population of cells one or more nucleic acid sequences that have been altered from a corresponding wild-type nucleic acid sequence to negatively influence the rate of SHM. The nucleic acid sequence can encode, for example, one or more of factors for SHM (e.g. AID, Pol eta, UDG), one or more selectable marker genes, or one or more reporter genes. [0136] In another aspect, the inventive method can further comprise introducing into the cell or population of cells one or more nucleic acid sequences that have been altered, in whole or part, from a corresponding wild-type nucleic acid sequence to positively influence the rate of SHM. The nucleic acid sequence can encode, for example, an enzyme, receptor, transcription factor, structural protein, toxin, co-factor, or specific binding protein of interest.

[0137] In yet another aspect, the inventive method can further comprise introducing into the cell or population of cells a nucleic acid sequence having an intrinsically high rate of SHM such as, for example, a nucleic acid sequence encoding an immunoglobulin heavy chain or an immunoglobulin light chain, or a hypervariable region of an antibody gene. [0138] The cell or population of cells of the inventive method can further comprise one or more of the following additional elements ( i) an inducible system to regulate the expression of AID, an AID homolog, or a functional AID mutant of the present invention, (ii) one or more Ig enhancers, (iii) one or more E-boxes, (iv) one or more auxiliary factors for SHM, (v) one or more factors for stable episomal expression, such as EBNAl, EB P2 or ori-P, (vi) one or more selectable marker genes, (vii) one or more secondary vectors containing the gene for AID, an AID homolog, or a functional AID mutant of the present invention, or (viii) a combination thereof.

[0139] In another aspect of the invention, the method comprises expressing two nucleic acid sequences, each encoding a gene product of interest, in which both nucleic acid sequences are located in proximity to a promoter, and expressed and co-evolved in the same cell simultaneously. The promoter can be a bi-directional promoter such as a bi-directional CMV promoter. In another embodiment, the two nucleic acid sequences of interest are placed in front of two uni-directional promoters. The two promoters can be the same promoter or different promoters. The two nucleic acid sequences of interest can be in the same vector or on different vectors.

[0140] The cell or population of cells either constitutively expresses, or can be induced to express a functional mutant AID protein as described herein. Expression of the functional mutant AID protein induces a mutation in the nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product. The cell or population of cells also can express other factors that enhance AID-mediated mutation of the nucleic acid sequence. As a result of the inventive method, on-going sequence diversification of the nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product of interest is achieved. After an appropriate period of time, (e.g., 2-10 cell divisions) the resulting host cells, which include variants of the gene product of interest, can be screened and improved mutants identified and separated from the cell population. Cells can be iteratively grown, assayed, and selected as described herein to selectively enrich those cells that express a nucleic acid sequence encoding a gene product of interest exhibiting a desired property. Suitable assay and enrichment strategies (e.g., fluorescent activated cell sorting (FACS), affinity separation, enzyme activity, toxicity, receptor binding, growth stimulation, etc.) are known in the art and described in, for example, U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publications WO 08/103475 and WO 08/103474.

[0141] In one embodiment of the invention, the nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product of interest can be engineered such that the gene product of interest is displayed at the cell-surface. In this respect, a cell-surface displayed protein can be created through the creation of a chimeric molecule of a protein of interest coupled in frame to a suitable transmembrane domain. In the case of mammalian cell expression, for example, a MHC type 1 transmembrane domain such as that from H2kk (including peri-transmembrane domain, transmembrane domain, and cytoplasmic domain; NCBI Gene Accession number AK153419) can be used. Likewise the surface expression of proteins in prokaryotic cells (such as E. coli and Staphylococcus) insect cells, and yeast is well established in the art (see, e.g., Winter et al., Annu. Rev. Immunol, 12: 433-55 (1994); Plϋckthun A. Bio/Technology, 9: 545-551 (1991); Gunneriusson et al., /. Bacteriol, 78: 1341-1346 (1996); Ghiasi et al., Virology, 185: 187-194 (1991); Boder and Wittrup, Nat. Biotechnol, 15: 553-557 (1997); and Mazor et al., Nat. Biotechnol, 25(5): 563-565 (2007)). [0142] Surface displayed antibodies or proteins can be created through the secretion and then binding (or association) of the secreted protein on the cell surface. Conjugation of the antibody or protein to the cell membrane can occur either during protein synthesis or after the protein has been secreted from the cell. Conjugation can occur via covalent linkage, by binding interactions (e.g., mediated by specific binding members) or a combination of covalent and non-covalent linkage. Proteins also can be coupled to a cell through the creation of an antibody or binding protein fusion protein comprising a first specific binding member that specifically binds to a target of interest fused to a second binding member specific for display on a cell surface (e.g., in the case of exploiting the binding of protein A and a Fc domain: protein A is expressed on and attached to a cell surface and binds to, and localizes, a secreted antibody (or a protein of interest expressed as an Fc fusion protein)). [0143] It may be desirable in some instances to convert a surface displayed protein into a protein that is released or shed from the cell for further characterization. Conversion can be accomplished through the use of a specific linker that can be cleaved by incubation with a selective protease such as factor X, thrombin or any other selective proteolytic agent. It is also possible to include nucleic sequences that enable the genetic manipulation of the encoded protein in the vector (i.e., that allow excision of a surface attachment signal from the protein reading frame). Such genetic manipulation can be accomplished using a recombination system. A "recombination system", as used herein, refers to a system which allows for recombination between a vector and a chromosome for incorporation of a gene of interest. Recombination systems are known in the art and include, for example, Cre/Lox systems and FLP-IN systems (see, e.g., Abremski et al., Cell, 32: 1301-1311 (1983), and U.S. Patent Nos. 4,959,317; 5,654,182; and 5,677,177). For example, the insertion of one or more unique restriction sites, or cre/lox elements, or other recombination elements that enable the selective removal of an attachment signal and subsequent intracellular accumulation (or secretion) of the protein of interest at will. Further examples include the insertion of flanking loxP sites around an attachment signal (such as a transmembrane domain) allowing for efficient cell surface expression of a protein of interest. However, upon expression of the ere recombinase in the cell, recombination occurs between the LoxP sites resulting in the loss of the attachment signal, and thus leading to the release or shedding of the protein of interest.

[0144] A gene product of interest generated by the inventive method can be screened for a desired property (e.g., a selectable or improved phenotype) using a variety of standard physiological, pharmacological and biochemical procedures. Such assays include for example, biochemical assays such as binding assays, fluorescence polarization assays, solubility assays, folding assays, thermostability assays, proteolytic stability assays, and enzyme activity assays (see generally Glickman et al., /. Biomolecular Screening, 7(1): 3- 10 (2002); Salazar et al., Methods. MoL Biol, 230: 85-97 (2003)), as well as a range of cell based assays including signal transduction, motility, whole cell binding, flow cytometry and fluorescent activated cell sorting (FACS) based assays. When the gene product is an antibody, or a fragment thereof, the phenotype/function of the antibody or fragment thereof can be further analyzed using art-recognized assays (e.g., enzyme-linked immunosorbant assays (ELISA), enzyme-linked immunosorbant spot (ELISPOT assay), gel detection and fluorescent detection of mutated IgH chains, Scatchard analysis, BIACOR analysis, western blots, polyacrylamide gel (PAGE) analysis, radioimmunoassays, etc. which can determine binding affinity, binding avidity, etc.).

[0145] Cells expressing a protein of interest encoded by a synthetic or semi- synthetic library as described herein can be enriched any art-recognized assay including, but not limited to, methods of coupling peptides to microparticles.

[0146] Many FACS and high throughput screening systems are commercially available (see, e.g., Zymark Corp., Hopkinton, Mass.; Air Technical Industries, Mentor, Ohio; Beckman Instruments Inc., Fullerton, Calif.; Precision Systems, Inc., Natick, Mass.) that enable these assays to be run in a high throughput mode. These systems typically automate entire procedures, including all sample and reagent pipetting, liquid dispensing timed incubations, and final readings of the microplate in detector(s) appropriate for the assay. These configurable systems provide high throughput and rapid start up as well as a high degree of flexibility and customization. The manufacturers of such systems provide detailed protocols for various high throughput systems. Thus, for example, Zymark Corp. provides technical bulletins describing screening systems for detecting the modulation of gene transcription, ligand binding, and the like. Exemplary screening assays that can be used in the context of the inventive method are described in U.S. Patent Application Publication 09/0075378 and International Patent Application Publications WO 08/103475 and WO 08/103474.

[0147] Once a population of cells of interest has been obtained, the nucleic acid sequences of interest can be rescued and the corresponding mutations sequenced and identified. For example, total mRNA, or extrachromosal plasmid DNA can be amplified by co-expression of SV40 T antigen (/. Virol, 62(10): 3738-3746 (1988)) and/or can be extracted from cells and used as a template for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or reverse transcriptase (RT)-PCR to clone the modified nucleic acid sequence using appropriate primers. Mutant nucleic acid sequences can be sub-cloned into a vector and expressed in E. coll. A tag (e.g., His-6 tag) can be added to the carboxy terminus to facilitate protein purification using chromatography. The resulting data can be used to populate a database linking specific amino acid substitutions with changes in one or more of the desired properties. Such databases can then be used to recombine favorable mutations or to design next generation polynucleotide library with targeted diversity in newly identified regions of interest, e.g. nucleic acid sequences which encode a functional portion of a protein. [0148] When the gene product of interest is an antibody, or fragment thereof, DNA can be extracted by PCR using variable heavy chain (VH) leader region and/or variable light chain (VL) leader region specific sense primers and isotype specific anti- sense primers. Alternatively, total RNA from selected sorted cell populations can be isolated subjected to RT-PCR using variable heavy chain (VH) leader region and/or variable light chain (VL) leader region specific sense primers and isotype specific anti-sense primers. Clones can be sequenced using standard methodologies and the resulting sequences can be analyzed for frequency of nucleotide insertions and deletions, receptor revision and V gene selection. [0149] Cells can then be re-grown, SHM re-induced, and re-screened over a number of cycles to effect iterative improvements in the desired function. At any point, the nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product of interest can be rescued and /or sequenced to monitor on-going mutagenesis.

[0150] The present invention additionally provides a method for mutating an organism to have a desired phenotype comprising expressing, or inducing the expression of, a functional AID mutant protein in the organism, whereupon expression of the functional mutant AID protein induces a mutation within the chromosomal DNA of the organism. The organism desirably is a prokaryote (e.g., bacteria) or a eukaryote. The eukaryote may be an invertebrate or a vertebrate, but preferably is a vertebrate. More preferably, the organism is a mammal. Most preferably, the organism is a mouse.

[0151] The vectors described herein which comprise a nucleic acid sequence encoding a functional mutant AID protein can be used in the aforementioned method of mutating an organism. Indeed, such vectors can be used to generate mice that are transgenic for a functional mutant AID protein using routine methods known in the art (see, e.g., Methods MoL Med., 99: 255-67 (2004)). In one embodiment, a vector comprising a nucleic acid encoding a functional mutant AID protein can be used to create a transgenic mouse wherein the endogenous AID gene is not disrupted. In another embodiment, a vector comprising a nucleic acid encoding a functional mutant AID protein can be used to create a transgenic mouse wherein the nucleic acid sequence encoding the functional AID mutant is inserted into the endogenous (i.e., chromosomal) AID locus to create a "knock-in" mouse, thereby preventing the expression of endogenous AID. In certain embodiments, the transgenic mouse comprises a functional mutant AID protein whose expression can be regulated by, for example, tissue-specific promoters or other inducible promoters (e.g., doxycycline or tetracycline (see, e.g., Curr. Opin. Biotechnol, 13(5): 448-52 (2002)). In another embodiment, the organism comprises at least one nucleic acid sequence that has been codon-optimized for SHM to increase the number of SHM motifs according to the methods described above. [0152] Whatever method is used to generate a transgenic mouse, expression of the functional mutant AID protein induces a mutation within the chromosomal DNA of the mouse. Once mutagenesis has occurred in an organism in accordance with the inventive method, cell or cells within the organism preferably are selected and/or screened for a desired phenotype using methods known in the art and described herein. [0153] The inventive methods described herein also can be used to generate a transgenic animal which produces an antibody directed against an antigen of interest, or epitope thereof. In one aspect, the inventive methods preferably are used to generate a transgenic mouse which produces monoclonal antibodies. Methods for generating monoclonal antibodies are known in the art and are described in, for example, see, e.g., Kδhler and Milstein, Eur. J. Immunol, 5: 511-519 (1976), Harlow and Lane (eds.), Antibodies: A Laboratory Manual, CSH Press (1988), and CA. Janeway et al. (eds.), Immunobiology, 5th Ed., Garland Publishing, New York, NY (2001)).

[0154] The desired antibody can be any natural or synthetically derived antibody as described herein, or any antigen-binding fragment thereof. In addition, the antibody can be a non-human antibody, a humanized antibody, or a fully human antibody. Preferably, the antibody is a humanized antibody. "Humanized" forms of non-human (e.g., murine) antibodies are chimeric antibodies which contain minimal sequence derived from non- human immunoglobulin. For the most part, humanized antibodies are human immunoglobulins (recipient antibody) in which hypervariable region residues of the recipient are replaced by hypervariable region residues from a non-human species (donor antibody) such as mouse, rat, rabbit or non-human primate having the desired specificity, affinity, and capacity. In some instances, framework region (FR) residues of the human immunoglobulin are replaced by corresponding non-human residues. Furthermore, humanized antibodies can comprise residues which are not found in the recipient antibody or in the donor antibody. These modifications are made to further refine antibody performance. A humanized antibody can comprise substantially all of at least one and, in some cases two, variable domains, in which all or substantially all of the hypervariable regions correspond to those of a non-human immunoglobulin and all, or substantially all, of the FRs are those of a human immunoglobulin sequence. The humanized antibody optionally also will comprise at least a portion of an immunoglobulin constant region (Fc), typically that of a human immunoglobulin. For further details, see Jones et al., Nature, 321: 522-525 (1986), Reichmann et al., Nature, 332: 323-329 (1988), and Presta, Curr. Op. Struct. Biol, 2: 593-596 (1992). In another embodiment, a monoclonal antibody can be humanized by grafting mouse CDRs into a human antibody framework without substantially interfering with the ability of the antibody to bind antigen. Methods of preparing humanized antibodies are generally well known in the art and can readily be applied to the antibodies produced by the methods described herein. [0155] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, humanized or fully human antibodies are generated using transgenic mice comprising a functional AID mutant protein that have been bred with a transgenic strain of mice in which endogenous mouse antibody gene expression is suppressed and effectively replaced with human antibody gene expression. Examples of transgenic mice wherein endogenous antibody genes are effectively replaced with human antibody genes include, but are not limited to, the HuMAb- Mouse®, the Kirin TC MouseTM, and the KM-Mouse® (see, e.g., Lonberg N. Nat. Biotechnol, 23(9): 1117-25 (2005) and Lonberg N. Handb. Exp. Pharmacol, 181: 69-97 (2008)).

[0156] The following examples further illustrate the invention but should not be construed as in any way limiting its scope.

EXAMPLE 1

[0157] This example demonstrates a method of screening for active mutators of DNA using a papulation assay.

[0158] Papulation assays have been used to screen for E. coli mutants that are defective in some aspect of DNA repair (Nghiem et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 85: 2709-17 (1988) and Ruiz et al., /. Bacteriol, 175: 4985-89 (1993)).

[0159] For papulation assays, AID/APOBEC cDNAs in plasmid pTrc9944 were transformed into Escherichia coli K12 strain CC102 araA(lacproB)χui carrying F' lad' Z proAB+ episome in which the lacZ gene carries a GAG->GGG missense mutation at codon 461 (Cupples et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 86: 5345-49 (1989)), and plated on MacConkey-lactose agar (BD Biosciences) supplemented with ampicillin (100 μg/ml) and isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG; 1 mM). Plates were incubated at 37 0C for 4 days with papilli becoming visible after 3 days.

[0160] The frequency of reversion of CC 102 [pTrc99- AID/APOBEC] transformants to Lac+ was determined by plating cultures grown overnight to saturation in LB medium supplemented with ampicillin (100 μg/ml) and IPTG (1 mM) on M9+0.2% lactose agar. Mutation frequencies were measured by determining the median number of colony- forming cells that survived selection per 107 viable cells plated with each median determined from 12 independent cultures. The identity of mutations was determined by sequencing PCR- amplified relevant sections of lacZ (5'-AGAATTCCTGAAGTTCAGATGT (SEQ ID NO: 79) and 5'-GGAATTCGAAACCGCCAAGAC (SEQ ID NO: 80)). [0161] E. CoIi cells which harbor a missense mutation within lacZ give rise to white colonies on MacConkey-lactose plates: within such white colonies, a small number of red microcolonies can often be discerned (papilli, typically 0-2 per colony) which reflect spontaneously- arising Lac+ revertants. Bacterial mutator clones which exhibit an elevated frequency of spontaneous mutation can be identified by virtue of an increased number of papilli.

[0162] The E. CoIi strain CC102 carries a missense mutation in codon 461 of lacZ with glutamate being substituted by glycine owing to a A:T to G:C transition mutation (Cupples et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 86: 5345-49 (1989)). If expression of AID in CC102 were to increase the rate of cytosine deamination at codon 461, this might be expected to increase the frequency of Lac+ revertants. AID-expressing transformants of CC102 gave an increased frequency of papulation on MacConkey-lactose plates (FIG. Ia, b). The number of papilli per colony as assayed after 6 days of incubation increased from 0-2 per colony to 8-10, which correlated with a more than threefold increase in the frequency of Lac+ revertants in overnight cultures as judged on minimal-lactose plates. Sequence analysis of six such Lac+ revertants confirmed that they had indeed arisen through reversion at codon 461. The AID-related deaminases APOBECl (Al) and APOBEC3G (A3G) also triggered increased papulation when expressed in CC102 cells (FIG. Ib).

[0163] This assay was also used to determine whether active mutators could be isolated from a total splenic cDNA library. A human spleen cDNA library was introduced into CC102 cells and fifty thousand colonies were screened for enhanced papulation. Thirty-six possible candidates were identified, which were retested by streaking on MacConkey lactose plates. Only two colonies were confirmed as giving increased papulation. Sequence analysis revealed that they carried distinct cDNAs derived from APOBEC3G. FIG. Ic depicts wild-type full length APOBEC3G mRNA and the two APOBEC3G cDNAs obtained in the human spleen cDNA library screen, wherein nucleotide residues are numbered relative to the start of the open reading frame (+1).

[0164] This example demonstrates that an E. CoIi papulation assay can be used as a high throughput screen for active mutators.

EXAMPLE 2

[0165] This example demonstrates an assay to identify AID mutants. [0166] First and second generation human AID mutant libraries were generated by error-prone PCR using Taq polymerase (2.5 U; Bioline) on 1 ng of template DNA with 1 μM forward and reverse primers (5'-ATGGAATTCATGGACAGCCTCTTG (SEQ ID NO: 81); 5'-CTGAAGCTTTCAAAGTCCCAAAGTA (SEQ ID NO: 82)), 250 μM-dNTPs, 10 mM-MgC12 in Taq buffer at 94 0C (2 min), followed by 30 cycles of 94 0C (30 s), 65 0C (30 s) and, 72 0C (1 min). The third generation human AID mutant libraries were generated using Genemorph II Random Mutagenesis Kit (Stratagene) on 0.1 ng DNA template according to the manufacturer's instructions.

[0167] Papulation assays were performed as described in Example 1, except that plates were incubated at 37 0C for 3-6 days with papilli becoming visible after 3 days and their numbers increasing until day 7. For analysis of arabinose-inducible expression, AID was expressed in plasmid pBAD30 (Guzman et al., /. Bacteriol, 177: 4121-30 (1995)). [0168] The frequency of reversion of CC 102 [pTrc99-AID] transformants to Lac+ was determined as described in Example 1, whereas mutation to rifampicin resistance (Rif) was assessed following transformation into E. CoIi strain KL16 (Hfr (PO-45) relAl spoTl thi-1) and colony growth in the presence of rifampicin (50 μg/ml) and arabinose (0% - 0.5%). Mutation frequencies were measured as described in Example 1, and the identity of mutations was determined by sequencing of PCR-amplified relevant sections of lacZ as described in Example 1 or PCR-amplified relevant sections of rpoB (5'- TTGGCGAAATGGCGGAAAACC-3' (SEQ ID NO: 83) and 5'- CACCGACGGATACCACCTGCTG-3' (SEQ ID NO: 84)).

[0169] The results shown in FIG. Id and FIG. 2 demonstrate that this assay can identify AID upmutants. A total of sixty thousand colonies from four independent PCR- mutagenesis experiments yielded 13 clones which exhibited increased papulation on MacConkey-lactose plates. Nine of these mutants were then tested in re-transfected E. CoIi strain KL16 for the frequency with which they yielded rifampicin-resistant colonies, and all nine exhibited an increased frequency of mutation at the rpoB locus. [0170] The AID cDNAs from two of the first-generation upmutants, i.e., Mutl and Mut7, were then themselves subjected to PCR mutagenesis and second-generation mutants exhibiting enhanced papulation were obtained (FIG. 2). The high papulation exhibited by these second generation mutants made it difficult to visually discern any additional increases in papulation. In order to screen for further enhancement of mutator activity in a third round of mutation/selection, cDNAs encoding AID Mutl.l and Mut7.3 were cloned into an arabinose-inducible expression vector such that the number of papilli obtained in CC102 transformants could be regulated by varying the concentration of arabinose in the medium (FIG. Ie). A third generation of AID upmutants was obtained by screening for papulation under low (0.02%) arabinose, some of which gave a mutation frequency that was nearly 400-times greater than the wild-type AID as judged by the frequency of mutation to rifampicin resistance (FIG. T). [0171] FIG. 2 depicts the dynasty of AID upmutants selected by the papulation screen. Upmutants obtained in three successive rounds of mutagenesis with mutants obtained from individual PCR- mutagenesis experiments grouped as families of siblings. The additional amino acid substitutions introduced in each round of mutagenesis are indicated with the numbers below the indicated substitutions giving the mean frequency of mutation to Rif relative to vector. * indicates a C-terminal truncation caused by introduction of a premature stop codon at the indicated codon. Individual mutants are numbered according to their dynastic origin: thus, for example, Mut7 (K10E/E156G) is the parent of Mut7.1 (K10E/E156G/F115Y).

[0172] Several of the third generation mutants appeared to exhibit toxicity in E. CoIi as judged by smaller colony size when grown under inducing conditions; this was accompanied by a reduced viable cell count in bacterial cultures grown to saturation. This result is demonstrated in FIG. If, which depicts bacterial titers in CC102 transformants expressing different AID upmutants grown to saturation in LB/Amp under conditions of IPTG induction relative to the titers obtained from cultures grown in the absence of induction. This toxicity might have caused some highly papillating mutants to give anomalously low frequencies of mutation to Rif (e.g., Mut7.3.4; FIG. 2) with AID expression possibly being downregulated during overnight culture. [0173] This example demonstrates that the E. CoIi papulation assay can identify functional AID mutant proteins that exhibit at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to a wild-type AID protein.

EXAMPLE 3

[0174] This example demonstrates that the bacterial papulation assay can identify hot spots for AID mutants having increased activity.

[0175] FIG. 3a compares the primary sequence of human AID (SEQ ID NO: 2) containing specific mutations that confer increased activity with upmutations in the pufferfish (Fugu) AID sequence. Mutations at asterisked residues are deduced to confer increased mutator activity since they constitute the sole difference between at least one pair of AID sequences exhibiting >2-fold difference in mutation frequencies at rpoB. Residues that are double underlined indicate sites where substitutions have been identified in multiple independent upmutants but in the presence of one or more other substitutions. The box above or below the asterisked or double underlined residues shows the identity of the substitution mutations and the frequency with which each substitution was detected in the total of nine independent libraries. Residues where the corresponding position in fugu AID also appears to be a site of selected upmutation, as judged by the fact that it is either the sole mutation identified in a fugu upmutant or that the substitution was identified (albeit with others) in multiple fugu upmutants, are identified by a bold, single underline. The zinc- coordination motifs (HVE and PCYDC (SEQ ID NO: 86)) and regions of suggested polynucleotide contact (FCEDRKA (SEQ ID NO: 87)(Cupples et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA, 86: 5345-49 (1989); Conticello et al., Nat. Struct. MoI. Biol, 14: 7-9 (2007); and Chen et al., Nature, 452: 116-119 (2008)), are highlighted by boxes.

[0176] Apart from the premature stop codon mutations identified in three of the AID upmutants (Mut5, Mutl.3, and Mutl.5), analysis of the sequences of the various AID upmutants revealed a striking preference for certain amino acid substitutions. For example, the K34E, T82I, and E156G substitutions (each of which is sufficient on its own to increase AID activity) were selected in independent experiments. These mutations were not found amongst sequences of 48 random (i.e., unselected) clones from the PCR-generated libraries, where a wide spectrum of mutations was observed without indications of any major hotspots of the mutagenesis procedure itself. Thus, the repeat identification of a small number of amino acid substitutions suggests that there are a limited number of single amino acid substitutions in AID that yield increased papulation.

[0177] Although in some cases (especially in the third generation) the multiplicity of mutations introduced in a single round prevents unambiguous identification of those mutations responsible for the increased papulation, in many cases the relevant upmutation can be definitively identified because it constitutes the sole difference between a pair of differently-papillating AID sequences or (somewhat less definitively) because it was independently obtained in multiple PCRs. The locations of such upmutations are depicted in FIG. 3a, where it is seen that whereas some are located around the zinc-coordination motif in the vicinity of the likely catalytic site (V57A; T82I), others are in a region equivalent to a portion of APOBEC3s that have previously been suggested to be involved in polynucleotide binding (F115Y; K120R) (Conticello et al., Nat. Struct. MoI. Biol, 14: 7-9 (2007); Chen et al., Nature, 452: 116-119 (2008); and Holden et al., Nature, 456: 121-124 (2008)), several are clustered in regions whose function is unknown. [0178] This example demonstrates a method for identifying AID mutants having increased activity.

EXAMPLE 4

[0179] This example demonstrates that the upmutations identified in the bacterial papulation screen increase the specific activity of AID.

[0180] GST-AID fusion proteins were purified from pOPTG-AID transformants of E. coli strain Rosetta (DE3) pLysS (pOPTG vector a gift from O. Perisic, Cambridge, UK). Cells were grown at 37 0C in 2XTY containing 100 μg/ml ampicillin and 100 nM ZnCl2 until the culture reached an absorbance of 0.8 at 600 nm when it was induced with 1 rnM IPTG for 16 h at 18 0C and the pelleted cells then lysed by a 30 min incubation on ice in lysis buffer (20 mM-Tris pH 7.4, 100 mM-NaCl, 0.1 % Triton X-100, 5 rnM-DTT, 4 μg/ml RNase A and complete EDTA-free protease inhibitor cocktail (Roche)) followed by sonication. Cell lysates were clarified by centrifugation (95,000 g; 1 h) and GST-AID was purified from these lysates by absorption onto glutathione-Sepharose (Amersham Pharmacia) at 4 0C for 5 h and elution following extensive washing with lysis buffer supplemented with 50 mM reduced glutathione lacking Triton XlOO. Eluted samples were stored at 4° C for up to one week.

[0181] The abundance of GST-AID fusion protein was monitored by Western blot (FIG. 3b). Initial screening of the sonic extracts of a large number of upmutants did not reveal any which exhibited a significant increase in the fractional yield of soluble protein as judged by Western blot analysis.

[0182] Deaminase activity of semi-purified GST-AID (100-400 ng) was assayed at 37 0C in 10 μl of reaction buffer (8 mM-Tris, pH 8.0, 8 mM-KCl, 10 mM-NaCl, 2.5 mMEDTA, 0.2 mM-dithiothreitol, 5 μg RNase A and 0.4 units uracil-DNA glycosylase (NEB)) with 0.5 pmol oligodeoxyribonucleotide (fluorescein-5'-

ATATGAATAGAATAGAGGGGTGAGCTGGGGTGAGCTGGGGTGAG-3'-biotin (SEQ ID NO: 85)). Reactions were terminated at indicated times by addition of an equal volume of loading dye (formamide, 0.5 mM EDTA) and heating at 98 0C for 3 minutes. The resultant cleaved oligonucleotides were subjected electrophoresis in 10% PAGE-urea gels and fluorescence detected with a Typhoon Phosphoimager (Molecular Dynamics). The extent of deamination was determined from the scanned images, expressing the pixel volume of the cleaved product bands (following background subtraction) as a percentage of the combined pixel volume of product and residual substrate bands. [0183] When GST- fusion proteins were generated from human upmutants Mutl.l and Mut7.3.6, a clear increase in specific activity was evident as judged by in vitro deamination assays performed on an oligonucleotide substrate (FIG. 3b,c). From analysis of initial rates, the specific deamination activity of these upmutants had increased some five-fold compared to wild-type.

[0184] Transition mutations at any one of 11 C:G pairs within rpoB can give rise to Rif. The distribution of such mutations amongst Rif colonies is shown for AID upmutants Mut8, 1.1, 1.2, 7.3.5 and 7.3.6 in FIG. 3d. The increased specific activity does not appear to have been accompanied by any gross change in the target specificity since analysis of the rpoB mutations obtained using several human AID mutants did not reveal any major difference in mutation spectrum (FIG. 3d).

[0185] This example demonstrates that the mutations identified in the bacterial papulation screen increase the specific activity of AID.

EXAMPLE 5

[0186] This example describes the generation of mutations in pufferfish (fugu) AID that result in increased AID activity.

[0187] Libraries containing mutants of fugu AID were generated using Genemorph II Random Mutagenesis Kit (Stratagene) on 0.1 ng DNA template according to the manufacturer's instructions. A bacterial papulation screen of the library of fugu mutants was performed as described in Example 1. The frequency of mutation to Rif relative to vector-only transformants at either 18 0C or 37 0C is shown in FIG. 4b for E. coli Kl 6 transformed with plasmids encoding wild type or mutated fugu AID as indicated. Derivatives of Mut4.3 and 4.10 were constructed in which the nonsense mutation at 190 had been reverted, thereby yielding a wild-type C-terminus.

[0188] AID from pufferfish (which live at around 26 0C) exhibits little bacterial mutator activity when assayed at 37 0C, whereas mutator activity can be detected at 18 0C (Conticello et al., MoL Biol. Evol, 22: 361-311 (2005)). Mutants of fugu AID that gave robust papulation at 37 0C were identified in a bacterial papulation assay. As shown in FIG. 4a, all the first generation mutants isolated harbored C-terminal truncation mutations (indicated by a "*", wherein "*a" and "*b" indicate different single nucleotide substitutions at codon 190 causing the premature stop codon), with the six mutants obtained harboring 5 distinct truncation mutations. Mutations causing the C-terminal region to be read out-of- frame were also identified, which are designated "Ins200a" and "Ins200b" in FIG. 4a to indicate different single nucleotide insertion mutations at codon 200. [0189] A variety of amino acid substitutions, however, could then lead to enhanced papulation in second generation mutants (FIG. 4a), with several of these occurring at positions analogous to the upmutations identified in human AID (FIGs. 3a and 4a). Thus, the mutation (C88L) responsible for the increased activity of fugu AID Mutl.3 occurs at the equivalent position to the T82I mutation in human AID. Similarly, residues F121, L124 and Ll 28 in fugu AID (each of which is a target for mutation in either two or three fugu upmutants) are all located in a stretch of fugu AID corresponding to 115-121 in human AID where upmutations were also obtained.

[0190] Although C-terminal truncations were detected amongst the panel of human AID upmutants, and such truncations have previously been shown to give higher mutator activity in E. coli (Barreto et al., MoL Cell, 12: 501-508 (2003); Ta et al, Nat. Immunol, 4: 843-848 (2003)), all the first generation mutants of fugu AID selected at 37 0C carried truncations at the C-terminus. One plausible explanation for this observation is that C-terminal mutations underpinned increased thermal stability and that the amino acid substitutions giving rise to increased papulation in the second generation fugu upmutants might not have been discernible at 37 0C in the absence of a C-terminal truncation mutation. However, this does indeed appear a likely explanation. The C88L and L128P substitutions both gave increased frequency of mutation to Rif as assayed at 18 0C in the presence or absence of a C-terminal truncation. However, when assayed at 37 0C, these amino acid substitutions did not give any discernible increase in mutation frequency in the absence of the C-terminal truncation (FIG. 4b).

[0191] This example demonstrates that mutations in pufferfish (fugu) AID that increase its activity are analogous to certain mutations identified in human AID.

EXAMPLE 6

[0192] This example demonstrates a method of enhancing antibody diversification in cells using a functional AID mutant protein of the present invention. [0193] Somatic mutation of the IgV was assayed by monitoring surface IgM-loss in AID"7" φV"7" SIgM+ DT40 cells (Teng et al., Immunity, 28: 621-629 (2008)) that had been stably transfected with AID-encoding vectors based on pExpressPuro2 by flow cytometry. For each construct, the percentage of slgM" cells was monitored in 12-24 independent transfectants that had been expanded under selection (0.25 μg/ml puromycin) for 3 weeks prior to flow cytometry.

[0194] Mutations in the IgVλ region were characterized by sequencing genomic DNA that was PCR-amplified from either 100,000 unsorted or from (GFP+; sIgM")-sorted cell equivalents (Sale et al., Nature, 412: 921-926 (2001)).

[0195] For assaying class-switching, surface IgGl expression was analyzed by flow cytometry in B cells that had been purified from AIDV mice and cultured in the presence of LPS+IL4 (48 h) following a 24 h-infection with AID encoding retroviruses as previously described (Di Noia, /. Exp. Med., 204: 3209-3219 (2007)). To facilitate a diminution in the extent of AID overexpression in the transduced B cells, a retroviral vector with a mutated Kozak sequence was used as described (McBride et al., /. Exp. Med., 205: 2199-2206 (2008)). AID abundance in extracts prepared by heating cells (106) in 50 μl of reducing SDS-sample buffer was monitored following SDS/PAGE by Western blot analysis using rabbit anti-AID antiserum (Abeam); GFP was detected using HRP conjugated goat anti- GFP antiserum (Abeam). [0196] Mutants 3 (T82I), 8 (K34E, K160E) and 7.3 (KlOE, E156G, T82I) were expressed in an AID deficient chicken DT40 B cell line in which somatic mutation of the IgV can be inferred from the frequency of generation of slgM-loss variants (Arakawa et al., PLoS Biol, 2: E179 (2004)). Both Mut3 and Mut7.3 appeared to give significantly enhanced somatic mutation as judged by this slgM-loss assay (FIG. 5a). Furthermore, sequence analysis revealed that after one month of clonal expansion, cells expressing these mutant AIDs did indeed carry a higher mutation load in the IgGλ gene than did control cells expressing the wild type enzyme (FIG. 5b). Not only did a higher proportion of sequences carry mutations but those that did carry mutations also carried a higher mutation load. This effect is particularly marked when account is taken of the fact that the mutant AID is expressed at lower abundance than its wild type counterpart in these transfectants. In contrast, mutant 8 did not give enhanced somatic mutation indicating that the K34E and/or K160E substitutions are likely to diminish aspects of AID's function in B cells. Interestingly, Mut8 polypeptide is found at much higher abundance in the DT40 transfectants than are the Mut3 or 7.3 polypeptides. This is consistent with observations in other work (e.g., Conticello et al., MoL Cell, 31: 474-484 (2008)) that AID mutants which exhibit compromised activity in antibody diversification/genomic mutation in DT40 cells tend to be expressed at higher abundance without any evident alteration in intracellular localization. One possible explanation for these differences in expression levels is that, in cell transfectants, there is selection against cells expressing high levels of AID proteins which are active in chromosomal mutation.

[0197] An assay based on retroviral transduction of the mutant enzymes into AID- deficient mouse B cells was used to assay the activity of the mutant AID in class switch recombination. In order to limit the degree of over expression of AID which might otherwise saturate the switching assay, the assay was performed using both the conventional pMX-Ig virus as well as a variant in which the transduced AID is expressed at lower levels through mutation of the Kozak sequence (McBride et al., /. Exp. Med., 2005: 2585-2594 (2008)). As indicated in FIG. 5c, which depicts representative flow cytometry plots of switching to IgGl wherein 'mK' indicates where transduction was performed using vectors with a mutated Kozak sequence, Mut7.3 was more effective in promoting class-switch recombination than the wild type counterpart although expressed at lower levels. [0198] This example demonstrates the use of a functional mutant AID protein to enhance antibody diversification in accordance with the inventive method. EXAMPLE 7

[0199] This example demonstrates that AID mutants increase chromosomal translocations.

[0200] A PCR-based assay (Janz et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. ScL USA., 90: 7361-7365 (1993)) was used to detect c-myc/IgH translocations in B cells. B cells from AID-deficient mice were transduced with AID-expressing retrovirus and cultured in medium containing LPS (20 μg/ml) and IL4 (50 ng/ml) as described for the class- switching assays in Example 6, seeding 8xlO5 cell/ml in 6-well plates. Genomic DNA from 2xlO5 cells that had been prepared using DirectPCR (Viatech) from sorted GFP+ cells 36 h after transduction was subjected to two rounds of nested PCR with Expand Long Template PCR system (Roche) followed by Southern blotting to amplify and detect both derl2 c-myc/Igμ and derl5 c- myc/Igμ translocations and the specific products as described (Ramiro et al., Nature, 440: 105-109 (2006)). FIG. 6 (top) depicts the scheme of reciprocal translocation between the c- myc and IgH loci and indicates the primers used for PCR amplification (arrows) and the probes (P) used for Southern blot hybridization.

[0201] B cells from AID-deficient mice were retrovirally transduced for AID expression and cultured for 1-2 days in vitro. AID Mut7.3 gave rise to a significantly higher proportion of cultures containing c-myc/IgH translocations than did the wild type enzyme (FIG. 6 (bottom)).

[0202] This example demonstrates a method of increasing chromosomal translocations using a functional AID mutant protein.

EXAMPLE 8

[0203] This example demonstrates that nucleic acid sequences encoding AID mutants with increased activity are closer to the nucleic acid sequences of APOBEC3 deaminases than wild- type AID.

[0204] A Web LOGO alignment (Crooks et al., Genome Research, 14: 1188-1190 (2004)) was performed (FIG. 7), which depicts amino acid conservation surrounding the major sites of upmutation of AID and the homologous regions in the Zl, Z2 and Z3 domains of mammalian APOBEC3s (cow, sheep, pig, dog, peccary, horse, cat, dog, mouse, rat, human and macaque: sequence accession numbers are provided in FIG. 8). Any sequence with over 90% amino acid identity to any other sequence was discarded from generation of the LOGO profiles. The AID upmutations are shown in the box above the numbered residues. Arrows at the bottom of the alignment highlight the homologous residues in the APOBEC3s. [0205] FIG. 7 illustrates that APOBEC3 family proteins are rapidly evolving and present in multiple copies in higher animals: their zinc coordination domains can be classified by sequence homology into one of three subgroupings (Zl, Z2 and Z3) (Conticello et al., MoL Biol. EvoL, 22: 367-377 (2005)). Alignment of AID sequences with those of the APOBEC3s revealed that most of the frequently selected upmutations in human AID served to bring the sequence of AID closer to that of its APOBEC3 relatives (FIG. 7). In fact, whereas the AID upmutation at Fl 15 substitutes the amino acid preferred at the corresponding position in APOBEC3 Z2 domains (Y), the upmutations at K34, T82 and E156 all substitute to the preferred amino acid at the corresponding position in the APOBEC3 Zl domains. Interestingly, it is these Zl domains which were found to be the most catalytically active of APOBEC3 domains (LaRue et al., /. Virol, 83: 494-497 (2009)). Thus, it appears that whereas the deamination of activity of AID can be artificially increased by specific upmutations, such upmutations may have been counterselected during the evolution of AID but not during the evolution of APOBEC3s.

[0206] This example demonstrates that nucleic acid sequences encoding AID mutants with increased activity are closer to the nucleic acid sequences of APOBEC3 deaminases than wild- type AID.

EXAMPLE 9

[0207] This example compares human (SEQ ID NO: 2) and pufferfish (fugu) (SEQ ID

NO: 13) AID upmutations.

[0208] Human and fugu AID primary sequences are aligned using ClustalW2 (e.g.,

Larkin et al., Bioinformatics, 23: 2947-2948 (2007)) (FIG. 9). The human AID upmutations are indicated by an asterisk or double underlining as described in Example 3 (FIG. 3a). The fugu AID upmutations are indicated by a carrot ("Λ"), having been identified either because they constitute the sole mutation in a fugu upmutant or because the residue was mutated in multiple fugu upmutants. The nature of the substitutions are indicated in boxes above or below the highlighted residues as in FIG. 3a. The zinc-coordination motifs (HVE, PCYDC) and regions of suggested polynucleotide contact (FCEDRKA) are boxed.

[0209] This example compared human and pufferfish (fugu) AID upmutations.

EXAMPLE 10

[0210] This example describes a method of generating a functional AID mutant comprising replacing an amino acid sequence of a wild-type AID protein with a corresponding amino acid sequence from an AID homolog.

[0211] Human AID mutants in which amino acid residues 115-123 have been replaced by equivalent regions from APOBEC3C (AID/3C), APOBEC3F (AID/3F), and APOBEC3G (AID/3G) were cloned into a bacterial expression plasmid. The mutator activity of these modified AID sequences was assayed by monitoring the frequency with which they yielded colonies resistant to rifampicin after transformation into E. coli. Specifically, E. coli strain KL16 [Hfr (PO-45) relAl spoTl thi-1] transformed with pTrc99/AID plasmids was grown overnight to saturation in LB medium supplemented with ampicillin (100 μg mF1) and isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG; 1 mM), and plated on LB low salt agar containing ampicillin (100 μg mF1) and rifampicin (50 μg ml"1). Mutation frequencies were measured by determining the median number of colony- forming cells that survived selection per 107 viable cells plated with each median determined from 12 independent cultures. The identity of mutations was determined by sequencing the relevant section of rpoB (typically from 25-200 individual colonies) after PCR amplification using oligonucleotides 5'-TTGGCGAAATGGCGGAAAACC (SEQ ID NO: 88) and 5'- CACCGACGGATACCACCTGCTG-3' (SEQ ID NO: 89). Whilst the AID/3C and AID/3F proteins retained good mutator activity, AID/3G gave rifampicin resistant colonies at a frequency indistinguishable over background. Rifampicin resistance is conferred by one of a limited number of mutations in rpoB with the nature of the mutations obtained giving insight into the target specificity of the deaminase (Harris et al., MoI. Cell, 10: 1247-1253 (2002)). Wild-type AID prefers to deaminate the C residues at rpoB position 1576 (C1576), which has a 5 '-flanking purine (G) residue. In contrast, the AID variants in which residues 115-123 have been replaced by corresponding regions from APOBEC3C/F/G showed a preference (as do the APOBEC3s themselves) for pyrimidines at the -1 position. Thus, AID/3C and AID/3F exhibited a shift in the spectrum of rpoB mutations to favor targets with a 5'-T (C1535, C1565 and C1592), while the AID/3G transformants almost solely targeted C1691, which has a 5'-C.

[0212] This results of this example demonstrate that replacement of amino acid residues 115-123 of human AID with corresponding sequences from APOBEC3 proteins alters the specific activity of AID.

EXAMPLE Il

[0213] This example describes a method of generating a functional AID mutant comprising replacing an amino acid sequence of a wild-type AID protein with a corresponding amino acid sequence from an AID homolog.

[0214] Although Example 10 demonstrates that the mutator activity of AID/3G is sufficient to yield a shift in the distribution of rpoB mutations observed in rifampicin- resistant E. coli, the mutator activity of the AID/3 G mutant is considerably lower than that of wild-type AID, since it does not yield a total frequency of mutation to rifampicin- resistance that is above background. To improve the mutator activity of the AID/3G mutant, two AID/3G upmutants were generated(designated AID1/3G and AID2/3G) in which three additional amino acid substitutions (i.e., AIDl: KlOE, T82I, E156G; AID2: K34E, E156G, R157T) were introduced into these proteins. Both of these AID/3G upmutants appeared to retain the parental AID/3G protein's preference for a 5 '-flanking C residue as determined by the rpoB mutation spectrum .

[0215] AID variants (designated AID*, AID*/3F, AID1*/3G, etc.) also were generated in which the C-terminal portion of AID (which includes its nuclear-export sequence) was deleted. The C-terminal truncation does not yield a detectable effect on AID mutational target site preference in bacterial mutation assays.

[0216] To analyse the biochemical target specificity of the above mutant AIDs in greater detail, the various AID enzymes were partially purified from E. coli extracts as recombinant GST-fusion proteins and used to deaminate single-stranded lacZ target DNA in the context of the M 13 gapped duplex assay (Bebenek and Kunkel, Methods Enzymol., 262: 217-232 (1995); Pham et al., Nature, 424: 103-107 (2003)). In this assay, recombinant GST-AID is incubated with gapped duplex M131acZ DNA, which is then transformed into E. coli.

[0217] Analysis of 30-50 mutated M131acZ clones in each experiment yielded databases of 471-685 mutations, all of which were transitions at C:G pairs. In the case of AIDl, 74% of the C mutations were at sites flanked by a 5 '-purine. In contrast, the AID mutants carrying transplanted segments from APOBEC3 proteins showed a shift towards a preference for a flanking pyrimidine, which was especially marked in the case of the AID/3C and AID/3G proteins (85% and 77% pyrimidine, respectively). This change in flanking nucleotide preference was accompanied by a change in the distribution of mutations along lacZ. Given that for most of the AID variants, the mutated sequences carried an average of 10-16 transition mutations over the 475 nucleotide stretch of single- stranded substrate analyzed, the mutations observed largely reflected the intrinsic preference of the mutational process without extensive skewing by virtue of the selection for lacZ inactivation.

[0218] The results of this example confirm that replacement of amino acid residues 115- 123 of human AID with corresponding sequences from APOBEC3 proteins alters the specific activity of AID

EXAMPLE 12

[0219] This example demonstrate that mutant AID proteins exhibit altered mutation spectra in B cells. [0220] In order to ascertain whether changing the catalytic specificity of AID results in an alteration in the distribution of nucleotide substitutions introduced during SHM in B cells, the mutant AIDs described in Examples 10 and 11 were expressed in an AID- deficient, ψV-deleted chicken DT40 B cell line. In the DT40 B cell line, the mutations are largely restricted to nucleotide substitutions at C:G pairs with little contribution from polymerase η-triggered hypermutation (Arakawa et al., PLoS Biol, 2: E179 (2004); Di Noia and Neuberger, Nature, 419: 43-48 (2002); Sale et al., Nature, 412: 921-926 (2001)), meaning that mutations at C:G can largely be ascribed to the direct effects of AID rather than possibly being a consequence of a second phase of mutation creation. The frequency of SHM at the IgV can be inferred from the frequency of generation of slgM-loss variants (Buerstedde et al., EMBO J., 9: 921-927 (1990); Sale et al., Nature, 412: 921-926 (2001)). This assay demonstrated that both AID/3C and AID/3F are proficient in SHM. Indeed, AID/3C is even more potent than the wild-type enzyme, especially when the lower abundance of the AID/3C polypeptide in the B cell extracts is taken into account. The low abundance of AID/3C was evident in multiple independent transfectants. The reason for this low expression may reflect cytotoxicity of excessive DNA deaminase activity. [0221] In contrast to the AID/3C and AID/3F mutants, the AID1/3G mutant gave only a very low frequency of slgM-loss variants. However, this frequency was considerably enhanced by deleting the AID C-terminal portion.

[0222] To characterise the IgV gene hypermutation spectrum in the DT40 B cell transfectants expressing the various modified AID proteins, the Ig Vλ segment from multiple independent transfectants for each expression construct was PCR amplified and sequenced after eight weeks of clonal expansion. The results revealed that the modifications of the AID active site resulted in a substantial alteration to the Ig Vλ mutation spectrum. Thus, AID/3C and AID1*/3G largely targeted C residues with a 5 '-flanking pyrimidine residue (68% and 75% respectively), in contrast to the wild-type enzyme in which only 19% of the mutations are targeted to C residues with a 5'-flanking pyrimidine. This significant change in mutation spectrum is evident both in the composite datasets as well as in each of those from independent clones. In contrast, AID/3F maintained the preference of the parental enzyme for a flanking purine residue but, as found in the in vitro assay on the gapped duplex lacZ substrate (Example 11) there is shift towards a preference for a flanking guanine rather than adenine.

[0223] The change in mutational targeting as judged by the nature of the 5 '-flanking nucleotide broadly correlated with an altered mutational spectrum as determined by the distribution of nucleotide substitutions along the IgVλ segment. Thus, for example, the Ig Vλ mutation hotspots were found at distinct locations when comparing wild-type AID with AID1*/3G. With wild type AID (as well as in the AIDl upmutant), clusters of hotspots were evident within CDRl, towards the 5'-side of CDR2, and also within CDR3, with these hotspots mostly conforming to a WRC consensus as observed previously (Arakawa et al., PLoS Biol, 2: E179 (2004); Sale et al., Nature, 412: 921-926 (2001); Saribasak et al., J. Immunol., 176: 365-371 (2006); Wang et al., Nat Struct MoI Biol, 16: 769-76 (2009)). In contrast, the Ig Vλ mutations obtained using AID1*/3G showed reduced clustering in CDRl and CDR3, with a focus on hotspots with a 5'-pyrimidine flank and which are located in regions (FRl and FR3) that are relatively spared by the wild type enzyme.

[0224] The results of this example demonstrate that changing the active site of AID modifies the mutation spectrum that is obtained both by DNA deamination in vitro and by antibody hypermutation in B cell transfectants.

EXAMPLE 13

[0225] This example describes the identification of "hotspots" of AID mutants. [0226] Although the active site modifications in AID/3C and AID1*/3G resulted in a shift from a preference for a flanking 5 '-purine to a flanking 5'-pyrimidine in both in vivo (DT40 Ig Vλ) and in vitro (gapped-duplex lacZ) mutation assays, the nature of the shift in the two assays was not equivalent. Thus, for AID/3G, although T is the flanking pyrimidine of choice in the DT40 Ig Vλ mutation spectrum, a flanking C is preferred in the in vitro assay. This discrepancy is substantially due to the skewing effect of a few major hotspots in the DT40 Ig Vλ spectrum, suggesting that some aspect of hypermutation in B cells might result in the creation of dominant hotspots which are not recapitulated in the in vitro gapped duplex assay.

[0227] To confirm this, the gapped duplex mutation assay was performed on an Ig Vλ (rather than lacZ) target sequence, and the resulting in vitro mutation spectrum was compared to that observed on the equivalent (non-transcribed) Ig Vλ DNA strand in DT40 B cells. Significant differences in mutational targeting were observed. These differences were similarly evident if the highly mutated sequences were excluded from the database used to deduce the patterns of in vitro mutational targeting.

[0228] To find out whether the differences in targeting reflects the fact that mutation in vivo likely occurs on transcribing double-stranded DNA, whereas the gapped duplex assay uses a single- stranded DNA target, mutational targeting was employed, using an assay described by Bransteitter et al., /. Biol Chem., 279: 51612-21(2004). This mutational targeting assay involves incubating recombinant AID with double- stranded DNA at the same time the target gene (lacZ) within the substrate is being transcribed from a linked T7 polymerase promoter. In this assay, AID1*/3G clearly differed from wild type AID, still preferring a 5'-pyrimidine, and especially a 5'-C, rather than the 5'-T that was observed in DT40 B cells. In order to assess mutational targeting within an Ig Vλ substrate in an in vitro transcription-coupled assay, the T7-linked assay was modified to create a substrate in which unselected mutations in short segments of Ig Vλ could be scored in clones that have suffered mutational inactivation of a closely linked GFP reporter gene. However, in such assays it was found that, as in the gapped duplex assay, the relative dominance of major hotspots at IgVλ positions 141 (with wild type AID) or 252 (with AID1*/3G) that was observed during hypermutation in DT40 cells was not recaptured. In fact, the mutational targeting in the transcription-linked assay appeared to be more similar to that obtained in the gapped duplex assay than to the pattern of mutational targeting observed in DT40 B cells. Thus, neither in vitro assay fully recapitulated the pattern of IgV hotspot dominance observed in B cells. [0229] The results of this example demonstrate that B cells expressing modified AID proteins yield altered hotspot usage.

EXAMPLE 14

[0230] This example describes the effects of transferring the Mut7.3 mutation to canine AID and human AID.

[0231] The function of AID in HEK293-cl8 cells was measured by sequencing a co- expressed antibody template. Cells were cotransfected with three episomal vectors containing unique selection markers, one expressing an antibody heavy chain with puromycin selection, one expressing an antibody light chain with hygromycin selection, and one expressing AID with blasticidin selection. After transfection, cells were always cultured with puromycin and hygromycin but differentially treated with blasticidin. For cells "pulsed" with AID, no blasticidin was added to the culture and transient transfection of an AID vector was repeated each week of the experiment. For "stable" AID cells, blasticidin was added to the culture media, and for "stable + pulsed," cells were cultured with blasticidin in addition to transfection with an AID vector each week. Three different AID mutants were examined in these experiments: canine AID ("MutE"), canine AID containing Mut7.3 ("Mut 7.3 E"), and human AID containing Mut7.3 ("Human 7.3) (SEQ ID NOs: 88-93 and Figures 10a and 10b) and two different vector constructs were tested for AID expression (i.e., an IRES vector and a pEpi vector). With the IRES vector both AID and blasticidin expression were controlled by the same promoter with an IRES element between the genes. In the pEpi vectors, blasticdin expression was controlled by a separate promoter. [0232] After approximately one month in culture, heavy chain variable regions were recovered by PCR for sequencing. Ninety- four templates were sequenced for each separate cell transfection experiment with an average of 88 complete sequences returned per experiment. The sequencing chromatograms were examined to verify the quality of the mutations observed and the frequency of mutation was calculated by dividing the number of mutations by the total number of nucleotides sequenced then dividing by the number of days in culture. The doubling time of HEK293-cl8 cells is approximately 24 hours, so the days in culture was used to normalize the mutation rate per generation. [0233] There was no significant difference in mutation frequency between the pulsed, stable, or stable+pulsed groups for each AID vector. In addition, there was no significant difference between IRES and pEpi vectors for MutE AID, nor any significant difference between Mut 7.3E and human 7.3. However, the difference in mutation frequency for Mut 7.3E in pEpi was statistically significant (p=0.0003) from Mut 7.3E in IRES. [0234] This example demonstrates that Mut7.3 can be translated to canine AID and human AID.

[0235] All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents, cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

[0236] The use of the terms "a" and "an" and "the" and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms "comprising," "having," "including," and "containing" are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning "including, but not limited to,") unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., "such as") provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non- claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention. [0237] Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.

CLAIMS:

1. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

2. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 1, wherein the amino acid at residue 34 is substituted.

3. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 2, wherein the amino acid substitution at residue 34 is an aliphatic amino acid substitution.

4. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 3, wherein the aliphatic amino acid substitution at residue 34 is K34E or K34D.

5. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-4, wherein the amino acid at residue 82 is substituted.

6. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 5, wherein the amino acid substitution at residue 82 is an aliphatic amino acid substitution.

7. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of 6, wherein the aliphatic amino acid substitution at residue 82 is T82I or T82L.

8. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-7, wherein the amino acid at residue 156 is substituted.

9. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 8, wherein the amino acid substitution at residue 156 is an aliphatic amino acid substitution.

10. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claim 9, wherein the aliphatic amino acid substitution at residue 156 is E156G or E156A.

11. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 8-10, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 34, 82, and 157.

12. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 8-11, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 34 and 157.

13. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 11 or claim 12, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 34, 82, and 157 are aliphatic amino acid substitutions.

14. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 11-13, wherein

(a) the amino acid substitution at residue 34 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D),

(b) the amino acid substitution at residue 82 is isoleucine (I) or leucine (L), and

(c) the amino acid substitution at residue 157 is threonine (T) or lysine (K).

15. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 9, 38, and 180.

16. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12 or claim 15, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 38, and 180.

17. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of 42, 115, 132, 183, and 198.

18. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 42, 115, 132, 183, and 198.

19. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 9, 96, and 181.

20. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 96, and 181.

21. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 13 and/or residue 197.

22. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 12, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 13 and 197.

23. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 15-22 wherein the amino acid substitutions are aliphatic amino acid substitutions.

24. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 15-23, wherein

(a) the amino acid substitution at residue 9 is methionine (M) or lysine (K),

(b) the amino acid substitution at residue 13 is phenylalanine (F) or tryptophan (W),

(c) the amino acid substitution at residue 38 is glycine (G) or alanine (A),

(d) the amino acid substitution at residue 42 is isoleucine (I) or leucine (L),

(e) the amino acid substitution at residue 96 is glycine (G) or alanine (A),

(f) the amino acid substitution at residue 115 is tyrosine (Y) or tryptophan (W),

(g) the amino acid substitution at residue 132 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D),

(h) the amino acid substitution at residue 180 is isoleucine (I) or alanine (A), (i) the amino acid substitution at residue 181 is methionine (M) or valine (V), (j) the amino acid substitution at residue 183 is isoleucine (I) or proline (P), (k) the amino acid substitution at residue 197 is arginine (R) or lysine (K), and (1) the amino acid substitution at residue 198 is valine (V) or leucine (L).

25. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 10 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

26. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 25, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 10 and 156 are aliphatic amino acid substitutions.

27. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 26, wherein the amino acid at residue 10 is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), and the amino acid at residue 156 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A).

28. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-27 ', wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein comprises at least one further amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of 13, 34, 82, 95, 115,120, 134 and 145.

29. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-28, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 13.

30. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-29, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34.

31. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-30, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 82.

32. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-31, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 95.

33. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-32, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 115.

34. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-33, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 120.

35. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-34, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 134.

36. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 25-35, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 145.

37. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 28-36, wherein the amino acid substitutions are aliphatic amino acid substitutions.

38. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any one of claims 28-37, wherein

(a) the amino acid substitution at residue 13 is phenylalanine (F) or tryptophan (W),

(b) the amino acid substitution at residue 34 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D),

(c) the amino acid substitution at residue 82 is isoleucine (I) or leucine (L),

(d) the amino acid substitution at residue 95 is serine (S) or leucine (L),

(e) the amino acid substitution at residue 115 is tyrosine (Y) or tryptophan (W),

(f) the amino acid substitution at residue 120 is arginine (R) or asparagine (N), and

(g) the amino acid substitution at residue 145 is leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

39. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 35 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 145, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

40. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 39, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 35 and 145 are aliphatic amino acid substitutions.

41. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 39, wherein the amino acid at residue 35 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A), and the amino acid at residue 145 is substituted leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

42. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 160, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

43. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 42, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 34 and 160 are aliphatic amino acid substitutions.

44. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 42, wherein the amino acid at residue 34 is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D), and the amino acid at residue 160 is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D).

45. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 43 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 120, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

46. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 45, wherein the amino acid substitution at residue 43 is an aromatic amino acid substitution and the amino acid substitution at residue 120 is an aliphatic amino acid substitution.

47. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 46, wherein the amino acid at residue 43 is substituted with proline (P), and the amino acid at residue 120 is substituted with arginine (R).

48. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least two amino acid substitutions, wherein at least one substitution is at residue 57 and at least one substitution is at residue 81 or 145, and wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

49. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 48, wherein the at least two amino acid substitutions are at residues 57 and 145.

50. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 49, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 57 and 145 are aliphatic amino acids.

51. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 50, wherein the amino acid at residue 57 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A), and the amino acid at residue 145 is substituted with leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

52. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 48, wherein the at least two amino acid substitutions are at residues 57 and 81.

53. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 52, wherein the amino acid substitution at residue 57 is an aliphatic amino acid substitution and the amino acid substitution at residue 81 is an aromatic amino acid substitution.

54. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 53, wherein the amino acid at residue 57 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A), and the amino acid at residue 81 is substituted with tyrosine (Y) or tryptophan (W).

55. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 82, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

56. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 55, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 156 and 82 are aliphatic amino acids.

57. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 56, wherein the amino acid at residue 156 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A), and the amino acid at residue 82 is substituted with leucine (L) or isoleucine (I).

58. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 34, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

59. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 58, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 156 and 34 are aliphatic amino acids.

60. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 59, wherein the amino acid at residue 156 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A), and the amino acid at residue 34 is substituted with glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D).

61. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 156 and at least one amino acid substitution at residue 157, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

62. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 61, wherein the amino acid substitutions at residues 156 and 157 are aliphatic amino acids.

63. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 62 wherein the amino acid at residue 156 is substituted with glycine (G) or alanine (A), and the amino acid at residue 157 is substituted with lysine (K) or asparagine (N).

64. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of 10, 82, and 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

65. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 9, 36, 44, 88, 93, and 142.

66. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 65, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 36, 44, 88, 93, and 142.

67. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein comprises at least one further amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 66,104, and 160.

68. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 67, wherein the functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 66, 104, and 160.

69. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 15, 115, and 185.

70. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 69, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 15, 115, and 185.

71. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 9, 30, 34, 100, and 184.

72. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 71, wherein the functional mutant AID) protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 30, 34, 100, and 184.

73. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 34, 35, 59, 120, and 157.

74. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 73, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 34, 35, 59, 120, and 157.

75. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 9, 74, 77, 118, 157, and 188.

76. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 75, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 9, 74, 77, 118, 157, and 188.

77. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at residue 53 and/or residue 145.

78. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 77, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 53 and 145.

79. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 64, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residues 18, 93, 100, 160, and 192.

80. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 79, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises amino acid substitutions at residues 18, 93, 100, 160, and 192.

81. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any one of claims 64-80, wherein the amino acid substitutions are aliphatic or aromatic amino acid substitutions.

82. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any one of claims 65-80, wherein (a) the amino acid substitution at residue 9 is serine (S), methionine (M), or tryptophan (W),

(b) the amino acid substitution at residue 10 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D),

(c) the amino acid substitution at residue 15 is tyrosine (Y) or leucine (L),

(d) the amino acid substitution at residue 18 is alanine (A) or leucine (L),

(e) the amino acid substitution at residue 30 is tyrosine (Y) or serine (S),

(f) the amino acid substitution at residue 34 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid (D),

(g) the amino acid substitution at residue 35 is serine (S) or lysine (K), (h) the amino acid substitution at residue 36 is cysteine (C),

(i) the amino acid substitution at residue 44 is arginine (R) or lysine (K)

(j) the amino acid substitution at residue 53 is tyrosine (Y) or glutamine (Q),

(k) the amino acid substitution at residue 57 is alanine (A) or leucine (L),

(1) the amino acid substitution at residue 59 is methionine (M) or alanine (A),

(m) the amino acid substitution at residue 66 is threonine (T) or alanine (A),

(n) the amino acid substitution at residue 74 is histidine (H) or lysine (K),

(o) the amino acid substitution at residue 77 is serine (S) or lysine (K),

(p) the amino acid substitution at residue 82 is isoleucine (I) or leucine (L),

(q) the amino acid substitution at residue 88 is serine (S) or threonine (T),

(r) the amino acid substitution at residue 93 is leucine (L), arginine (R), or lysine

(K),

(s) the amino acid substitution at residue 100 is glutamic acid (E), tryptophan (W), or phenylalanine (F),

(t) the amino acid substitution at residue 104 is isoleucine (I) or alanine (A), (u) the amino acid substitution at residue 115 is tyrosine (Y) or leucine (L), (v) the amino acid substitution at residue 118 is glutamic acid (E) or valine (V), (x) the amino acid substitution at residue 120 is arginine (R) or leucine (L), (y) the amino acid substitution at residue 142 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid

(D),

(z) the amino acid substitution at residue 145 is leucine (L) or tyrosine (Y), (aa) the amino acid substitution at residue 156 is glycine (G) or alanine (A), (bb) the amino acid substitution at residue 157 is glycine (G) or lysine (K), (cc) the amino acid substitution at residue 160 is glutamic acid (E) or aspartic acid

(D),

(dd) the amino acid substitution at residue 184 is asparagine (N) or glutamine (Q), (ee) the amino acid substitution at residue 185 is glycine (G) or aspartic acid (D), (ff) the amino acid substitution at residue 188 is glycine (G) or glutamic acid (E), and

(gg) the amino acid substitution at residue 192 is threonine (T) or serine (S).

83. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 115, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

84. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 83, wherein the amino acid at residue 115 is substituted with tyrosine (Y), tryptophan (W), or leucine (L).

85. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a human AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 1 or SEQ ID NO: 2) by at least one amino acid substitution at residue 120, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

86. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 85, wherein the amino acid substitution at residue 120 is an aliphatic amino acid.

87. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of claim 86, wherein the amino acid at residue 120 is substituted with arginine (R), asparagine (N), or leucine (L).

88. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-87, wherein the functional mutant AID protein comprises a C-terminal truncation, a fusion protein, or a stop codon at or distal to residue 181.

89. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-88, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises the following amino acid substitutions:

N7K, R8Q, Q14H, R25H, Y48H, N52S, H156R, R158K, and L198A.

90. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-88, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises the following amino acid substitutions:

N7K, R8Q, R9K, Q14H, R25H, Y48H, N52S, GlOOW, A138G, S173T, and T195I.

91. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-88, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises the following amino acid substitutions:

N7K, R8Q, R9K, Q14H, R25H, F42C, Y48H, N52S, GlOOW, A138G, H156R, S173T, T195I, and L198F.

92. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any claims 1-88, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises the following amino acid substitutions:

M6K, N7K, R8Q , KlOQ, R25H, A39P, Y48H, N52A, E118D, insertion of K after 118, and D119E.

93. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-88, wherein the functional mutant AID protein further comprises the following amino acid substitutions:

N7K, R9K, KlOL, Q14N, F42C, N52M, D67A, GlOOA, V135A, Y145F, H156R, R171H, Q175K, and R194K.

94. The isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-93, wherein the isolated or purified nucleic acid sequence has been codon optimized to reduce the number of somatic hypermutation (SHM) motifs.

95. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a canine AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 3) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

96. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a murine AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 4) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

97. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a rat AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 5) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

98. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a bovine AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 6) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

99. An isolated or purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein whose amino acid sequence differs from the amino acid sequence of a chicken AID protein (SEQ ID NO: 7) by at least one amino acid substitution at a residue selected from the group consisting of residue 34, residue 82, and residue 156, wherein the functional mutant AID protein has at least a 10-fold improvement in activity compared to the human AID protein in a bacterial papulation assay.

100. An expression vector comprising a nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-99.

101. An isolated eukaryotic cell comprising the nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1- 99 or the vector of claim 100.

102. An isolated prokaryotic cell comprising the nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-99 or the vector of claim 100.

103. A transgenic animal comprising the nucleic acid of any of claims 1-99.

104. The transgenic animal of claim 103, wherein the animal is a mouse.

105. The transgenic animal of claim 103, wherein the animal is a rabbit.

106. The transgenic animal of claim 103, wherein the animal is a camelid.

107. The transgenic animal of claim 103, wherein the animal is a goat.

108. The transgenic animal of claim 103, wherein the animal is a rat.

109. A method for preparing a gene product having a desired property, which method comprises expressing a nucleic acid encoding the gene product in a population of cells, wherein the population of cells expresses, or can be induced to express, a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein encoded by the nucleic acid molecule of any of claims 1-99, whereupon expression of the functional mutant AID protein induces a mutation in the nucleic acid encoding the gene product.

110. The method of claim 109, wherein the method further comprises the step of selecting a cell or cells within the population which expresses the mutated nucleic acid sequence encoding the gene product having the desired property.

111. The method of claim 109 or claim 110, wherein the cell is a eukaryotic cell or a prokaryotic cell.

112. The method of any of claims 109-111, wherein the cell is a mammalian cell.

113. The method of any of claims 109-112, wherein the cell is a B cell or B cell derivative.

114. The method of any of claims 109-113, wherein the cell comprises at least one nucleic acid sequence that has been codon optimized for SHM to increase the number of SHM motifs.

115. A method for mutating an organism to have a desired phenotype comprising expressing, or inducing the expression of, a functional mutant activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) protein encoded by the nucleic acid molecule of any one of claims 1-99 in the organism, whereupon expression of the functional mutant AID protein induces a mutation within the chromosomal DNA of the organism.

116. The method of claim 115, wherein the method further comprises the step of selecting a cell or cells within the organism which display the desired phenotype.

117. The method of claim 115 or claim 116, wherein the organism is a eukaryote or a prokaryote.

118. The method of any of claims 115-117, wherein the organism comprises at least one nucleic acid sequence that has been codon optimized for SHM to increase the number of SHM motifs.


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