In an attempt to determine whether genes involved in T cell antigen recognition are structurally abnormal and thereby promote murine systemic lupus, we analyzed the structural integrity of the D, J, and C region elements of the T cell receptor alpha and beta chain genes in all major lupus strains and several normal strains. Within the limits of restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, all strains had an identical genomic organization, except the NZW mice, in which a deletion of the C beta 1-D beta 2-J beta 2 elements was found. Sequence analysis of NZW genomic elements containing this deletion placed its probable origin within the first exon of C beta 1, and extending to a complementary region within the first exon of C beta 2. The significance of this abnormality in the pathogenesis of systemic autoimmune disease remains to be determined.

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