Tracking how individual naive T cells from a natural TCR repertoire clonally expand, differentiate, and make lineage choices in response to an infection has not previously been possible. Here, using single-cell sequencing technology to identify clones by their unique TCR sequences, we were able to trace the clonal expansion, differentiation trajectory, and lineage commitment of individual virus-specific CD4 T cells during an acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection. Notably, we found previously unappreciated clonal diversity and cellular heterogeneity among virus-specific helper T cells. Interestingly, although most naive CD4 T cells gave rise to multiple lineages at the clonal level, ∼28% of naive cells exhibited a preferred lineage choice toward either Th1 or TFH cells. Mechanistically, we found that TCR structure, in particular the CDR3 motif of the TCR α chain, skewed lineage decisions toward the TFH cell fate.

This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at
You do not currently have access to this content.