Kinetics of mouse T-cell gamma gene rearrangements in ontogeny were determined as an approach to understanding the possible role of these genes in the development of fetal thymocytes. Two of these genes (C gamma 1 and C gamma 2) rearranged rapidly during days 14 to 17 of the gestational period in BALB/c mice. Moreover, these rearrangements seemed to be tightly synchronized with rearrangements of T-cell receptor beta chain genes in the same cells. It is suggested that the early transcriptional activity of gamma genes, which precedes that of beta chain genes, may not reflect the functional activation of these genes. Nevertheless, productive and therefore potentially functional gamma gene rearrangements precede surface expression of T-cell receptors in the thymus by 2 to 3 days, which is compatible with a role for gamma gene products in thymocyte development prior to antigen-specific stages.

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