Determinants of public T cell responses

Cell Res. 2012 Jan;22(1):33-42. doi: 10.1038/cr.2012.1. Epub 2012 Jan 3.


Historically, sharing T cell receptors (TCRs) between individuals has been speculated to be impossible, considering the dramatic discrepancy between the potential enormity of the TCR repertoire and the limited number of T cells generated in each individual. However, public T cell response, in which multiple individuals share identical TCRs in responding to a same antigenic epitope, has been extensively observed in a variety of immune responses across many species. Public T cell responses enable individuals within a population to generate similar antigen-specific TCRs against certain ubiquitous pathogens, leading to favorable biological outcomes. However, the relatively concentrated feature of TCR repertoire may limit T cell response in a population to some other pathogens. It could be a great benefit for human health if public T cell responses can be manipulated. Therefore, the mechanistic insight of public TCR generation is important to know. Recently, high-throughput DNA sequencing has revolutionized the study of immune receptor repertoires, which allows a much better understanding of the factors that determine the overlap of TCR repertoire among individuals. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on public T-cell response and discuss future challenges in this field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / genetics
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymocytes / immunology
  • V(D)J Recombination


  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell