Recent studies demonstrating the existence of murine gamma delta T cell subsets with structurally identical T cell receptors (TcR) suggest that unlike alpha beta T cells, some gamma delta T cells are specialized in the recognition of a limited number of monomorphic antigens. However, this question still remains open in humans, since the TcR structural diversity of their peripheral gamma delta T cells was shown to be extensive. Here we have analyzed in detail the TcR chain genes expressed by human V gamma 9+V delta 2+ peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL), a major peripheral gamma delta T cell subset in adults and present evidence for an antigen-driven peripheral selection of both TcR gamma and delta junctional motifs among these cells. First, it is shown that the proportion of V gamma 9+V delta 2+ cells expressing the V9JPC1 gamma chain is much higher among PBL than among thymus-derived clones, indicating that preferential use of this J gamma segment is not due to pairing or combinatorial constraints. Second, analysis of V9JPC1 gamma transcripts derived from V gamma 9+V delta 2+ PBL clones revealed a high prevalence of a unique V9JP gamma sequence with limited "N" nucleotide additions and VJ trimming, which could not be accounted for by enzymatic or antigen-independent structural limitations. Third, the TcR delta chain expressed by most V gamma 9+V delta 2+ PBL clones, though diverse in amino acid composition and length, carried a highly distinctive junctional motif, found at a much lower frequency among V2DJ delta sequences derived from V gamma 9-V delta 2+ PBL or V gamma 9+V delta 2+ thymocytes. Together, these results which demonstrate shared gamma and delta junctional features by cells using unique V gamma and V delta genes, suggest that in vivo selection of V gamma 9+V delta 2+ lymphocytes is mediated by a highly restricted number of nominal ligands.