Adoptive therapy using T cells redirected to target tumor- or infection-associated antigens is a promising strategy that has curative potential and broad applicability. In order to accelerate the screening process for suitable antigen-specific T cell receptors (TCRs), we developed a new approach circumventing conventional in vitro expansion-based strategies. Direct isolation of paired full-length TCR sequences from non-expanded antigen-specific T cells was achieved by the establishment of a highly sensitive PCR-based T cell receptor single cell analysis method (TCR-SCAN). Using MHC multimer-labeled and single cell-sorted HCMV-specific T cells we demonstrate a high efficacy (approximately 25%) and target specificity of TCR-SCAN receptor identification. In combination with MHC-multimer based pre-enrichment steps, we were able to isolate TCRs specific for the oncogenes Her2/neu and WT1 even from very small populations (original precursor frequencies of down to 0.00005% of CD3(+) T cells) without any cell culture step involved. Genetic re-expression of isolated receptors demonstrates their functionality and target specificity. We believe that this new strategy of TCR identification may provide broad access to specific TCRs for therapeutically relevant T cell epitopes.