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Science. 1999 Oct 29;286(5441):958-61.

A direct estimate of the human alphabeta T cell receptor diversity.

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Unité de Biologie Moléculaire du Gène, INSERM U277, Institut Pasteur, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France.


Generation and maintenance of an effective repertoire of T cell antigen receptors are essential to the immune system, yet the number of distinct T cell receptors (TCRs) expressed by the estimated 10(12) T cells in the human body is not known. In this study, TCR gene amplification and sequencing showed that there are about 10(6) different beta chains in the blood, each pairing, on the average, with at least 25 different alpha chains. In the memory subset, the diversity decreased to 1 x 10(5) to 2 x 10(5) different beta chains, each pairing with only a single alpha chain. Thus, the naïve repertoire is highly diverse, whereas the memory compartment, here one-third of the T cell population, contributes less than 1 percent of the total diversity.

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