In polymyositis (PM), CD8+ T cell receptor (TCR) alpha/beta + cells invade and destroy major histocompatibility complex class I-positive muscle fibers. We combined polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and double-fluorescence immunocytochemistry to analyze the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire expressed in muscle of PM patients. In patient 1, inverse PCR revealed a preferential usage of TCR V alpha 33.1, V beta 13.1, and V beta 5.1. Six of six TCR V alpha 33.1+ clones and five of seven V beta 13.1+ clones had identical nucleotide sequences. In contrast, the V beta 5.1+ TCRs were more heterogeneous. Similar results were obtained with an independent PCR method using primers specific for TCR V alpha 33, V beta 13, or V beta 5. No TCR sequences could be amplified from noninflammatory control muscle. Furthermore, none of the TCR sequences found in PM muscle could be detected in blood from the same patient or from a normal control subject. Immunohistochemistry confirmed that V beta 5.1 and V beta 13.1 were overrepresented in the muscle lesions of this patient. 32% of all CD8+ T cells were V beta 13.1+, and 16% were V beta 5.1+. However, approximately 60% of the CD8+ T cells that invaded muscle fibers were V beta 13.1+, whereas 10% were V beta 5.1+. In patient 2, 50% of the T cells were V beta 5.1+, and as in patient 1, these T cells were mainly located in interstitial areas. In patient 3, > 75% of the autoinvasive T cells stained with an anti-V beta 3 mAb. Sequence analysis of 15 PCR clones amplified with a V beta 3-specific primer showed that 9 (60%) sequences were identical. The results suggest that (a) a strikingly limited TCR repertoire is expressed in PM muscle; (b) there is a dissociation between the TCR usage of autoinvasive and interstitial T cells; and (c) the autoinvasive T cells are clonally expanded.

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