To investigate the influence of genetic and/or environmental factors in the development and shaping of the human peripheral T cell repertoire the authors studied the T-cell receptor (TCR) V beta usage in 10 adult monozygous (Mz) and nine dizygous (Dz) twin pairs living in a Plasmodium falciparum endemic area in West Africa. The TCR repertoire was determined using a small panel of anti-V beta specific monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) using conventional immunofluorescence assays. The results revealed that the V beta repertoire was similar to that recently described for a Caucasian population using a similar panel of antibodies. The frequencies of particular V beta genes tested were influenced neither by anti-malarial antibody titres nor by parasite densities, indicating that the P. falciparum parasite is not a dominating factor in determining the peripheral T cell repertoire. All donors were human leucocyte antigen (HLA) class I and II typed; no association was found between the expression of any V beta genes and MHC haplotype. The V beta usage was more concordant within the Mz than within the Dz pairs. For a group comprising four HLA class II identical individuals, the average within-pair difference was significantly greater than for the whole Mz group, but similar to that seen for the total Dz group. Thus, the data suggest that genetic, rather than environmental, factors have a profound effect on the shaping of the human circulating T cell repertoire and that the major genetic factors are encoded by non-HLA class II genes.