The human T cell receptor delta (TCR delta) gene encodes one component of the TCR gamma delta-CD3 complex found on subsets of peripheral blood and thymic T cells. Human TCR delta diversity was estimated by characterizing rearrangements in TCR gamma delta cell lines and determining the structures of complementary DNA clones representing functional and nonfunctional transcripts in these cell lines. One V delta segment and one J delta segment were identified in all functional transcripts, although a distinct J delta segment was identified in a truncated transcript. Further, one D delta element was identified, and evidence for the use of an additional D delta element was obtained. Thus human TCR delta genes appear to use a limited number of germline elements. However, the apparent use of two D delta elements in tandem coupled with imprecise joining and extensive incorporation of N nucleotides generates unprecedented variability in the junctional region.

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