Antigen Selection Shapes the T-cell Repertoire in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Clin Cancer Res. 2016 Jan 1;22(1):167-74. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-3017. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Purpose: The role of antigen(s) in shaping the T-cell repertoire in chronic lymphocytic leukemia, although relevant for understanding malignant cell interactions with cognate T cells, is largely unexplored.

Experimental design: Here we profiled the T-cell receptor β chain gene repertoire in 58 chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients, focusing on cases assigned to well-characterized subsets with stereotyped clonotypic B-cell receptor immunoglobulins, therefore those cases most evidently selected by antigen (subsets #1, #2, and #4).

Results: Remarkable repertoire skewing and oligoclonality were observed, and differences between subsets were noted regarding both T-cell receptor β chain gene usage and the extent of clonality, with subset #2 being the least oligoclonal. Longitudinal analysis of subset #4 cases revealed that although the repertoire may fluctuate over time, certain clonotypes persist, thus alluding to persistent antigenic stimulation. Shared ("stereotyped") clonotypes were found between different patients, reflecting selection by common antigenic elements. Cross-comparison of our dataset with public databases showed that some T-cell clonotypes may have expanded secondary to common viral infections; however, the majority of clonotypes proved to be disease-specific.

Conclusions: Overall, the T-cell receptor β chain repertoire in chronic lymphocytic leukemia is likely shaped by antigen selection and the implicated antigenic elements may concern epitopes that also select the malignant B-cell progenitors or, more intriguingly, chronic lymphocytic leukemia-derived epitopes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Clonal Evolution / genetics
  • Clonal Selection, Antigen-Mediated / immunology*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology*
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / genetics
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*


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