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The distribution of human TCR junctional region lengths shifts with age in both CD4 and CD8 T cells.

  • Hall, M A
  • Reid, J L
  • Lanchbury, J S
Published Article
International immunology
Publication Date
Oct 01, 1998
PMID: 9796907


Several normal and pathological antigen-driven immune responses are associated with limited TCR usage. CDR3 sequence and to some extent length represent clonal markers which can be used to follow the course of an immune response. We investigated whether differences exist in the CDR3 length distribution in the CD4 versus CD8 populations which might reflect the HLA class restriction of the T cell subpopulation. We showed that the range is similar in both the CD4 and CD8 populations for most BV families. Differences exist between CDR3 length distributions of adult versus cord blood CD4 and CD8 T cells. The percentage expressing CDR3 of 10 amino acids or more across all BV families was significantly lower in the cord blood T cells compared to the adults for both CD4 and CD8 populations. This is likely to reflect either differences in the development of the T cell population such as increased N region length post-partum or may be the result of foreign antigen exposure. To address this issue, samples of TCRBV sequences from cord and adult T cell populations were compared. No significant differences were found in either exonucleolytic removal or N region addition between the adult and cord blood samples suggesting that the population shift is the result of antigen exposure. No spectratype distortions existed for any BV family in the adult or cord blood CD4 populations; however, distortions were seen in CD8 populations from all the adults and much less frequently in the cord blood T cells. We investigated the ability to detect clonality at frequencies that one would expect to find antigen-specific T cells in the peripheral repertoire. It was possible to identify a clone at a frequency of 0.1% in a polyclonal CD4 population. This frequency corresponds to that of some individual clones after antigen-driven T cell expansion and establishes parameters within which T cell immune responses may be tracked ex vivo.

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