Application of the molecular analysis of the T-cell receptor repertoire in the study of immune-mediated hematologic diseases

Hematology. 2003 Jun;8(3):173-81. doi: 10.1080/1024533031000107505.


The basis for the vast recognition spectrum of the T-cell receptor (TCR) can be determined by the rearrangement and recombination of the variable, diversity and joining regions of the variable portions of beta (B) and alpha (A) chains as well as their recombination and modification. Analysis of the TCR rearrangement has been routinely used to detect clonality for the diagnosis of lymphoid malignancies. However, molecular analysis of the TCR repertoire can be a powerful tool in the study of T-cell responses to pathogens and in autoimmune diseases. The concept of the oligoclonality in the context of cellular immune responses is based on the presence of immunodominant T-cell clones within distinct T-cell subpopulations used for analysis. Under normal circumstances, a limited number of clones undergo periodic expansions in reaction to foreign antigens. Under pathologic conditions, though, the derailment of immune regulation allows expansions of specific and potentially pathogenic T-cell clones. For example, large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia illustrates an extreme expansion of a single T-cell clone associated with a distinct autoimmune pathology, which suggests an exaggerated clonal response to a specific antigenic target. In immune-mediated bone marrow failure syndromes, clonal rearrangement of the TCR cannot be detected in unseparated blood or marrow. Nevertheless, individual T-cell clones can significantly expand and may allow for demonstration of oligoclonality in selected T-cell populations. These subpopulations are defined, for example, by a specific beta (B)-chain usage or other phenotypic markers. Given the diversity of the TCR recognition spectrum, the task of identifying immunodominant clonotypes derived from unique complementarity determining region-3 (CDR3) sequences is very complex. However, expanded T-cell clones likely represent immunodominant responses which can be detected on the molecular level using analysis of the individual TCR VB-chain representation, CDR3 size fragment skewing, and determination of the frequency of individual clonotypic sequences. In the future, TCR VB clonotypes may be applied as a diagnostic tool, analogous to serologic markers. As an investigative tool in hematology, molecular analysis of the TCR utilization pattern and the detection of immunodominant clonotypes represents a novel approach in the study of immune-mediated hematologic diseases, such as aplastic anemia (AA), some forms of myelodysplasia (MDS), anti-leukemic immune surveillance, graft-versus-leukemia effects and graft-versus-host disease (GvHD).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Aplastic / genetics
  • Anemia, Aplastic / immunology
  • Anemia, Aplastic / pathology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Bone Marrow / immunology
  • Bone Marrow / pathology
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Complementarity Determining Regions / genetics
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Forecasting
  • Gene Rearrangement, T-Lymphocyte*
  • Genes, T-Cell Receptor beta*
  • Hematologic Diseases / genetics
  • Hematologic Diseases / immunology*
  • Hematologic Diseases / pathology
  • Hemoglobinuria, Paroxysmal / genetics
  • Hemoglobinuria, Paroxysmal / immunology
  • Hemoglobinuria, Paroxysmal / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / immunology
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / genetics
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / immunology
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / pathology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Complementarity Determining Regions
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell