The objective of this study was to explore the nature of the antigen-specific T cell response in giant cell arteritis by analyzing clonally expanded T cells in temporal artery specimens. In temporal artery tissue from eight patients, 10% of the T cell receptor beta chain repertoire was systematically screened for clonal T cells by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction with selected BV, BJ, and BC specific primers and by direct sequencing of the amplified product. In five additional patients tissue-derived T cell clones were characterized. All expanded clonotypes were analyzed for their presence at different sites of the inflamed artery. T cell lines were tested for their proliferation to autologous monocytes pulsed with temporal artery extracts from patients with giant cell arteritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and unrelated diseases. Clonally expanded T cells were identified in 30% of the BV-J combinations of the sampled repertoire. A subset of these clones were encountered at different sites of the inflammation, but not in the peripheral blood. The T cell receptor beta chain sequences were diverse. The patients had between none and five such clonotypes in the sampled repertoire, suggesting that only few T cell specificities in each patient are involved in antigen recognition. One of these T cell clonotypes was shown to proliferate in response to an antigen selectively expressed in temporal artery specimens from giant cell arteritis and from polymyalgia rheumatica patients. Clonotypes with identical T cell receptor beta chain sequences can be found at distinct sites of the inflammation in giant cell arteritis, suggesting recognition of the same antigen at different locations. At least for some of these T cell clones the antigen is shared between different giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica patients but not expressed in temporal arteries of patients with unrelated diseases. While different HLA-DR4+ patients utilize distinct T cell specificities, the actual number of responding T cells in individual patients is small and may be disease limiting.