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The variation of the alpha beta T cell receptor (TCR) results mainly from rearrangements of germ-line V, D and J elements combined with the processes of N- and P-region addition. In addition to this extensive diversity, diallelic polymorphism is also recognized in V regions of beta loci. Four such polymorphisms have previously been defined, but the full extent of such variation has not yet been established. To investigate allelic polymorphism, we used a strategy based V locus-specific polymerase chain reaction and single-strand conformation polymorphisms. Studying the two V beta 2 loci and the V alpha 8.1 locus, we found that all exhibited a coding polymorphism. One of the V beta 2 loci proved to be the first multiallele segment to be recognized, with three common variants. The second V beta 2 locus, for which none of the two alleles has been identified in cDNA, appeared in fact to be a V beta orphon, in abnormal location on the chromosome 9. A yeast artificial chromosome containing part of the TCRB locus allowed us to place the first V beta 2 segment on the known map to define haplotypes with two other polymorphic segments: V beta 1 and V beta 6.7. Multiple distinct haplotypes result from combinations between these polymorphic loci, showing that V beta regions are highly variable between individuals. Two alleles exist at the V alpha 8.1 segment and both are expressed. This represents the first example of a frequent coding polymorphism for TCRA gene. The distribution of allele frequencies for these segments suggest the action of balancing selection. These data add a further dimension to TCR polymorphism and suggest new candidates to explore TCR-encoded susceptibility to autoimmune diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of immunology

Publication Date





1277 - 1283


Molecular Immunology Group, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford.


T-Lymphocytes, Humans, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta, Oligodeoxyribonucleotides, Cloning, Molecular, Sequence Alignment, Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, Haplotypes, Genes, Alleles, Molecular Sequence Data