T-cell antigen receptor genes and T-cell recognition

Nature. 1988 Aug 4;334(6181):395-402. doi: 10.1038/334395a0.


The four distinct T-cell antigen receptor polypeptides (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) form two different heterodimers (alpha:beta and gamma:delta) that are very similar to immunoglobulins in primary sequence, gene organization and modes of rearrangement. Whereas antibodies have both soluble and membrane forms that can bind to antigens alone, T-cell receptors exist only on cell surfaces and recognize antigen fragments only when they are embedded in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Patterns of diversity in T-cell receptor genes together with structural features of immunoglobulin and MHC molecules suggest a model for how this recognition might occur. This view of T-cell recognition has implications for how the receptors might be selected in the thymus and how they (and immunoglobulins) may have arisen during evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA / analysis
  • Genetic Variation
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / immunology
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • DNA