Background: Analysis of the T-cell receptor (TCR)-Vbeta repertoire has been used for studying selective T-cell responses in autoimmune disease, alloreactivity in transplantation, and protective immunity against microbial and tumor antigens. For the interpretation of these studies, we need information about the Vbeta repertoire usage in healthy individuals.
Methods: We analyzed blood T-lymphocyte (sub)populations of 36 healthy controls (age range: from neonates to 86 years) with a carefully selected most complete panel of 22 Vbeta monoclonal antibodies, which together recognized 70-75% of all blood TCRalphabeta(+) T lymphocytes. Subsequently, we developed a six-tube test kit with selected Vbeta antibody combinations for easy and rapid detection of single ("clonal") Vbeta domain usage in large T-cell expansions.
Results: The mean values of the Vbeta repertoire usage were stable during aging in blood TCRalphabeta(+) T lymphocytes as well as in the CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cell subsets, although the standard deviations increased in the elderly. The increased standard deviations were caused by the occurrence of oligoclonal T-cell expansions in the elderly, mainly consisting of CD8(+) T lymphocytes. The 15 detected T-cell expansions did not reach 40% of total TCRalphabeta(+) T lymphocytes and represented less than 0.4 x 10(9) cells per liter in our study. Vbeta usage of the CD4(+) and CD8(+) subsets was comparable for most tested Vbeta domains, but significant differences (P < 0.01) between the two subsets were found for Vbeta2, Vbeta5.1, Vbeta6.7, Vbeta9.1, and Vbeta22 (higher in CD4(+)), as well as for Vbeta1, Vbeta7.1, Vbeta14, and Vbeta23 (higher in CD8(+)). Finally, single Vbeta domain expression in large T-cell expansions can indeed be detected by the six-tube test kit.
Conclusions: The results of our study can now be used as reference values in studies on distortions of the Vbeta repertoire in disease states. The six-tube test kit can be used for detection of single Vbeta domain expression in large T-cell expansions (>2.0 x 10(9)/l), which are clinically suspicious of T-cell leukemia.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.