In this study, we report that differences between T-cell receptor (TCR) V beta gene family usage in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are significantly greater in a subgroup of patients with common variable immunodeficiency (CVI) and high levels of activated CD8+ T cells (CD8hi CVI) than in controls (P < 0.001). In CD8hi CVI patients, such differences were also significantly greater for V beta 12 than for other V beta families. As the causes of the differential usage of V beta gene families by CD4+ and CD8+ T cells are under investigation, it was interesting that the combined differences between V beta gene family usage in the CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell subpopulations as a whole were significantly lower than the combined differences between individual V beta gene family usage in either CD4+ or CD8+ T-cell subpopulations (P < 0.001 in both control and CD8hi CVI patients). Further, the pattern of V beta gene family usage in CD4+ T cells was remarkably similar to that in CD8+ T cells in both groups. These data strongly suggest that differences in V beta gene family usage arising from coselection by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I versus MHC class II restriction elements do not fundamentally distort 'basic' V beta gene family usage patterns. They also support the concept that differences in CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell V beta gene family usage, which were increased in CD8hi CVI, can arise from high-affinity interactions between disease-associated antigens or superantigens and T cells in the post-thymic T-cell compartment.