Short primer PCR directed at conserved regions of amino acid sequence within the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) and immunoglobulin (Ig) light chain variable ( V) regions was used to amplify putative TCRgamma V region amplicons from stage 45 Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog) mRNA (cDNA). An adult Xenopus spleen cDNA library was screened using the Vgamma and a putative TCRValpha amplicon. Full copy length cDNAs containing the specific PCR-derived Valpha and Vgamma amplicons were recovered at relatively low frequency. Probes complementing the TCRalpha and TCRgamma constant ( C) regions were employed to isolate equivalent numbers of additional TCR alpha and TCR gamma cDNAs in an unbiased (non- V-based) manner. Few Vgamma genes appear to be expressed relative to the highly diverse expression of V alpha genes in equivalent numbers of cDNAs that were analyzed. Two TCRgamma C regions differ at only two positions; whereas two TCRalpha C regions differ at 33 coding positions as well as in their respective 3' untranslated regions, consistent with two independent loci. However, genomic Southern blots revealed considerably higher numbers of hybridizing bands when probed with C gamma than with C alpha. A potential novel mechanism of diversification is suggested by an unusual TCR alpha cDNA in which the V region can be translated in two frames through utilization of two closely linked V genes and an alternative splicing process. This process produces a translatable cDNA that is not readily predictable from the genomic locus utilizing normal recombination and splicing mechanisms.