We report here the first extensive study of a T cell repertoire for a class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response. We have found that the T cell receptors (TCRs) carried by 28 H-2Kd-restricted CTL clones specific for a single Plasmodium berghei circumsporozoite nonapeptide are highly diverse in terms of V alpha, J alpha, and J beta segments and aminoacid composition of the junctional regions. However, despite this extensive diversity, a high proportion of the TCRs contain the same V beta segment. These results are in contrast to most previously reported T cell responses towards class II MHC-peptide complexes, where the TCR repertoires appeared to be much more limited. In our study, the finding of a dominant V beta in the midst of otherwise highly diverse TCRs suggests the importance of the V beta segment in shaping the T cell repertoire specific for a given MHC-peptide complex. As an additional finding, we observed that nearly all clones have rearranged both TCR alpha loci. Moreover, as many as one-third of the CTL clones that we analyzed apparently display two productive alpha rearrangements. This argues against a regulated model of sequential recombination at the alpha locus and consequently raises the question of whether allelic exclusion of the TCR alpha chain is achieved at all.

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