The T-cell receptor (TCR) is unique in its complexity. It determines not only positive (life) and negative (death) selection in the thymus, but also mediates proliferation, anergy, differentiation, cytotoxicity and cytokine production in the periphery. Through its association with six CD3 signalling chains (εγ, δε and ζζ), the TCR is capable of recognizing an extensive variety of antigenic peptides, from both pathogens and self-antigens, and translating these interactions into multiple signalling pathways that mediate diverse T-cell developmental and functional responses. The analysis of TCR biology has been revolutionized by the development of TCR transgenic mice, which express a single clonotypic T-cell population, with diverse specificities and genetic backgrounds. However, they are time consuming to generate and characterize, limiting the analysis of large numbers of TCR over a short period of time in multiple genetic backgrounds. The recent development of TCR retrogenic technology resolves these limitations and could in time have a similarly important impact on our understanding of T-cell development and function. In this review, we will discuss the advantages and limitations of retrogenic technology compared with the generation and use of TCR transgenic mice for studying all aspects of T-cell biology.
© 2012 The Authors. Immunology © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.