Emerging Role of T-cell Receptor Constant β Chain-1 (TRBC1) Expression in the Flow Cytometric Diagnosis of T-cell Malignancies

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb 12;22(4):1817. doi: 10.3390/ijms22041817.


T-cell clonality testing is integral to the diagnostic work-up of T-cell malignancies; however, current methods lack specificity and sensitivity, which can make the diagnostic process difficult. The recent discovery of a monoclonal antibody (mAb) specific for human TRBC1 will greatly improve the outlook for T-cell malignancy diagnostics. The anti-TRBC1 mAb can be used in flow cytometry immunophenotyping assays to provide a low-cost, robust, and highly specific test that detects clonality of immunophenotypically distinct T-cell populations. Recent studies demonstrate the clinical utility of this approach in several contexts; use of this antibody in appropriately designed flow cytometry panels improves detection of circulating disease in patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, eliminates the need for molecular clonality testing in the context of large granular lymphocyte leukemia, and provides more conclusive results in the context of many other T-cell disorders. It is worth noting that the increased ability to detect discrete clonal T-cell populations means that identification of T-cell clones of uncertain clinical significance (T-CUS) will become more common. This review discusses this new antibody and describes how it defines clonal T-cells. We present and discuss assay design and summarize findings to date about the use of flow cytometry TRBC1 analysis in the field of diagnostics, including lymph node and fluid sample investigations. We also make suggestions about how to apply the assay results in clinical work-ups, including how to interpret and report findings of T-CUS. Finally, we highlight areas that we think will benefit from further research.

Keywords: T-cell; T-cell receptor; TRBC1; clonality; diagnostics; flow cytometry; leukemia; lymphoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell* / diagnosis
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell* / metabolism
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell* / pathology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / biosynthesis*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology


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