Improved assessment of T-cell receptor (TCR) VB repertoire in clinical specimens: combination of TCR-CDR3 spectratyping with flow cytometry-based TCR VB frequency analysis

Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 2002 Mar;9(2):257-66. doi: 10.1128/cdli.9.2.257-266.2002.


Antigen-specific T-cell responses may be described by combining three categories: (i) the specificity and effector functions of a T-cell population, (ii) the quantity of T-cell responses (i.e., the number of responding T cells within the CD4/CD8 population), and (iii) the "quality" of T cells (defined by the T-cell receptor [TCR] structure). Several methods to measure T-cell responses are now available including evaluation of T-cell precursors using limiting dilution, the enzyme-linked immunospot assay, ex vivo TCR variable (v)-segment analysis determined by flow cytometry, and TCR-CDR3 length analysis (spectratyping), as well as identification of peptide-specific T cells using major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I tetramers containing appropriate peptides. Until now, only a limited set of MHC-peptide complexes have been available as tetramer complexes. We demonstrate that CD8(+) or CD4(+) T cells in patients with cancer can be molecularly defined using a combination of spectratyping (TCR structure and "molecular composition") plus the implementation of an antibody panel directed against 21 individual VB TCR chains ("quantity" of T-cell families). This approach is instrumental in defining and comparing the magnitudes of CD4(+) or CD8(+) T-cell responses over time in individual patients, in comparing the TCR VA and VB repertoire in different anatomic compartments, and in comparing the TCR VA-VB diversity with that in normal healthy controls. This method provides the means of objectively defining and comparing the TCR repertoire in patients undergoing vaccination protocols and underlines the necessity to calibrate the TCR-CDR3 analysis with a qualitative assessment of individual TCR VB families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / chemistry*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / chemistry*
  • Complementarity Determining Regions / analysis*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / analysis*


  • Complementarity Determining Regions
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta