Unusual organization and diversity of T-cell receptor alpha-chain genes

Nature. 1985 Aug 29-Sep 4;316(6031):828-32. doi: 10.1038/316828a0.


T lymphocytes recognize cell-bound antigens in the molecular context of the self major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene products through the surface T-cell receptor(s). The minimal component of the T-cell receptor is a heterodimer composed of alpha and beta subunits, each of relative molecular mass (Mr) approximately 45,000 (refs 1-3). Recently, complementary DNA clones encoding these subunits have been isolated and characterized along with that of a third subunit of unknown function, termed gamma (refs 4-9). These studies revealed a primary structure for each subunit that was clearly similar to that of immunoglobulin and indicated a somatic rearrangement of corresponding genes that are also immunoglobulin-like. Recently, the analysis of the sequence organization of the T-cell receptor beta-chain and T-cell-specific gamma-chain gene families has been reported. We now present an initial characterization of the murine T-cell receptor alpha-chain gene family, and conclude that although it is clearly related to the gene families encoding immunoglobulins, T-cell receptor beta-chains and also T-cell gamma-chains, it shows unique characteristics. There is only a single constant (C) region gene segment, which is an exceptionally large distance (approximately 20-40 kilobases (kb) in the cases studied here) from joining (J) gene segments. In addition, the J cluster and the variable (V) segment number seen to be very large. Finally, in the case studied here, a complete alpha-chain gene shows no somatic mutation and can be assembled directly from V alpha, J alpha and C alpha segments without inclusion of diversity (D alpha) segments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Clone Cells
  • Cloning, Molecular*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Genes*
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • DNA
  • DNA Restriction Enzymes

Associated data

  • GENBANK/X02843
  • GENBANK/X02845
  • GENBANK/X02846
  • GENBANK/X02848
  • GENBANK/X02857
  • GENBANK/X02862
  • GENBANK/X03252