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Despite considerable knowledge of the determinants and profile of the T cell receptor (TCR) beta-chain repertoire, very little is known about the repertoire of the V alpha and J alpha segments of the TCR in man or mouse. We have used the anchored polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to analyze the human TCR alpha-chain repertoire at the mRNA level in peripheral blood lymphocytes. We find marked differences in the usage of individual V alpha segments. The V alpha repertoire is determined both by differences in the use of individual V alpha gene segments at the time of gene rearrangement and by genetic influences on the selection of the expressed V alpha repertoire, presumably during thymic maturation. Analysis of the J alpha repertoire shows non-random usage of individual J alpha segments but no obvious relationship to chromosomal position. We also report three new V alpha segments, three new J alpha segments and possible allelic variation in V alpha gene segments. Two unusual TCR alpha transcripts are described which add new information on the nature of TCR alpha transcript assembly.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of immunology

Publication Date





1153 - 1159


Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford, GB.


Humans, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta, RNA, Messenger, Chromosome Mapping, Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, Molecular Sequence Data