The T cell receptor (TCR)-alpha/beta CD4-8- (double negative, DN) T cell subset is characterized by an oligoclonal repertoire and a restricted V gene usage. By immunizing mice with a DN T cell clone we generated two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against V alpha 24 and V beta 11, which have been reported to be preferentially expressed in DN T cells. Using these antibodies, we could investigate the expression and pairing of these V alpha and V beta gene products among different T cell subsets. V alpha 24 is rarely expressed among CD4+ and especially CD8+ T cells. In these cases it is rearranged to different J alpha segments, carries N nucleotides, and pairs with different V beta. Remarkably, V alpha 24 is frequently expressed among DN T cells and is always present as an invariant rearrangement with J alpha Q, without N region diversity. This invariant V alpha 24 chain is always paired to V beta 11. This unique V alpha 24-J alpha Q/V beta 11 TCR was found in expanded DN clones from all the individuals tested. These findings suggest that the frequent occurrence of cells carrying this invariant TCR is due to peripheral expansion of rare clones after recognition of a nonpolymorphic ligand.

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