CD4+ T cells are thought to play an important role in airway inflammation in both atopic and non-atopic asthma. However, the mechanism by which T cells are activated in non-atopic asthma, where there is no causative antigen identified, is unknown. To elucidate this issue, we analysed T cell receptor (TCR) Vbeta gene clonotypes of T cells in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluids (BALF) of non-atopic asthmatics using polymerase chain reaction single-strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) analysis and a sequencing method. We found that the numbers of TCR Vbeta gene clonotypes of T cells in the BALF of non-atopic asthmatics were significantly increased compared with those of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL). We also found that there were several shared amino acid motifs in complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) of TCR Vbeta genes from those T cell clones in BALF of non-atopic asthmatics, whereas these shared motifs were not found in the same Vbeta family genes from PBL in the patients. Moreover, a conserved amino acid sequence was detected in two patients who shared a common HLA-DR allele. These results indicate that the infiltrating T cells in the airways of non-atopic asthmatics recognize relatively limited epitopes of antigens and are clonally expanded by antigen-driven stimulation.