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J Immunol Methods. 2011 May 31;368(1-2):45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2011.03.001. Epub 2011 Mar 5.

Measurement of absolute T cell receptor rearrangement diversity.

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  • 1Division of Experimental Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 94143-1234, United States.


T cell receptor (TCR) diversity is critical for adaptive immunity. Existing methods for measuring such diversity are qualitative, expensive, and/or of uncertain accuracy. Here, we describe a method and associated reagents for estimating the absolute number of unique TCR Vβ rearrangements present in a given number of cells or volume of blood. Compared to next generation sequencing, this method is rapid, reproducible, and affordable. Diversity of a sample is calculated based on three independent measurements of one Vβ-Jβ family of TCR rearrangements at a time. The percentage of receptors using the given Vβ gene is determined by flow cytometric analysis of T cells stained with anti-Vβ family antibodies. The percentage of receptors using the Vβ gene in combination with the chosen Jβ gene is determined by quantitative PCR. Finally, the absolute clonal diversity of the Vβ-Jβ family is determined with the AmpliCot method of DNA hybridization kinetics, by interpolation relative to PCR standards of known sequence diversity. These three component measurements are reproducible and linear. Using titrations of known numbers of input cells, we show that the TCR diversity estimates obtained by this approach approximate expected values within a two-fold error, have a coefficient of variation of 20%, and yield similar results when different Vβ-Jβ pairs are chosen. The ability to obtain accurate measurements of the total number of different TCR gene rearrangements in a cell sample should be useful for basic studies of the adaptive immune system as well as in clinical studies of conditions such as HIV disease, transplantation, aging, and congenital immunodeficiencies.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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