Impact of TCR Diversity on the Development of Transplanted or Chemically Induced Tumors

Cancer Immunol Res. 2020 Feb;8(2):192-202. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-19-0567. Epub 2019 Dec 12.


Burnet postulated that the diversity of T-cell receptors (TCR) allows T cells to protect against the development of cancers that display antigens with a similar, seemingly endless diversity. To test this hypothesis, we developed a strategy in which a single breeding pair of mice gives rise to four groups of sibling mice. Three of the four groups had a similar number of CD8+ T cells, but TCR diversity was either broad, significantly reduced, or absent when expressing only one type of TCR. The fourth group had no T cells. All mice shared the same housing, and, therefore, their microbial environment was similar. Only slight differences in the intestinal flora were observed under these conditions. An undisturbed broad TCR repertoire was required for the rejection of inoculated cancers displaying the natural antigenic heterogeneity of primary tumors, whereas even one type of TCR was sufficient to protect against artificial cancers stably expressing cognate antigens. The three groups of mice with limited or no TCR repertoire showed an increased risk of developing primary tumors after chemical induction. However, the risk of early death or morbidity in these cohorts of mice was significantly higher than in mice with a diverse TCR repertoire, and it remains unknown whether mice with reduced TCR diversity, who died early without cancer, would have developed tumors with higher, lower, or equal probability after induction. Together, TCR diversity seems crucial to overcome the natural genetic instability of cancers and their antigenic heterogeneity, which impacts the design of cellular therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neoplasm Transplantation / methods*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / immunology*


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