Selection of variable-joining region combinations in the alpha chain of the T cell receptor

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Science  09 Sep 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4871, pp. 1354-1358
DOI: 10.1126/science.2970673


Most T lymphocytes express an antigen-specific receptor composed of two subunits, alpha and beta, each of which can exhibit structural variability. A complex selection process operates on T cells during development in the thymus such that cells expressing only particular alpha beta-receptors migrate to the periphery. The alpha-chain repertoire was dissected at different stages of the selection process by using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique to amplify only those transcripts of a particular variable region gene (V58). Sequences from these V58 cDNAs reveal the predominant expression of four joining (J) segments by T cells in the adult thymus, suggesting that molecular or cellular processes select particular V alpha J alpha combinations during development. T cells expressing one of these V58J alpha chains appear to have been negatively selected at a later stage, since these transcripts were present in the spleen at approximately one-tenth the level in the thymus. Results also indicate that residues present at the V alpha J alpha junction may be important in an early selection process.