Diversity and evolution of T-cell receptor variable region genes in mammals and birds

Immunogenetics. 1999 Dec;50(5-6):301-8. doi: 10.1007/s002510050606.


The receptor of a T lymphocyte (TCR) recognizes nonself antigens in the company of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules presented to it by the antigen-presenting cell. The variable region of TCR is encoded by either a concatenation of variable region (TCR-V), diversity region (TCR-D), and joining region (TCR-J) genes, or a concatenation of TCR-V and TCR-J genes. The TCR-V genes exist as a multigene family in vertebrate species. Here we study the evolutionary relationships of TCR-V genes from humans, sheep, cattle, rabbits, mice, and chicken. These six species can be classified into two groups according to the frequency of gamma(delta) T-cells in their peripheral T-cell populations. The "gamma(delta) low" group of species includes humans and mice, in which gamma(delta)T-cells constitute very limited portion of the T-cell population. The "gamma(delta) high" group includes sheep, cattle, rabbits, and chicken, in which gamma(delta) T-cells comprise up to 60% of the T-cell population. Here, we compiled TCR-V sequences from the six species and conducted a phylogenetic analysis. We identified various TCR-V gene subgroups based on the analysis. We found that humans and mice have representatives from nearly all of the subgroups identified, while other species have lost subgroups to different extent. Therefore, the gamma(delta) low species have a high degree of diversity of TCR-V genes, while gamma(delta) high species all have limited diversity of TCR-V genes. This pattern is similar to that found for immunoglobulin variable region (IGV) genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / genetics
  • Cattle
  • Chickens
  • Databases, Factual
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, T-Cell Receptor*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Rabbits
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / genetics
  • Sheep


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta