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Immunol Rev. 1998 Oct;165:121-30.

Accessibility control of variable region gene assembly during T-cell development.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


T-cell development is a complex and ordered process that is regulated in part by the progressive assembly and expression of antigen receptor genes. T cells can be divided into two lineages based on expression of either an alpha beta or gamma delta T-cell antigen receptor (TCR). The genes that encode the TCR beta and gamma chains lie in distinct loci, whereas the genes that encode the TCR alpha and delta chains lie in a single locus (TCR alpha/delta locus). Assembly of TCR variable region genes is mediated by a site-specific recombination process that is common among all lymphocytes. Despite the common nature of this process, recombination of TCR genes is tightly regulated within the context of the developing T cell. TCR beta, gamma and delta variable region genes are assembled prior to TCR alpha variable region genes. Furthermore, assembly of TCR beta variable region genes is regulated within the context of allelic exclusion. The regulation of rearrangement and expression of genes within the TCR alpha/delta locus presents a complicated problem. TCR alpha and delta variable region genes are assembled at different stages of T-cell development, and fully assembled TCR alpha and delta variable region genes must be expressed in distinct lineages of T cells, alpha beta and gamma delta, respectively. We have developed several experimental approaches to assess the role of cis-acting elements in regulating recombination and expression of TCR genes. Here we describe these approaches and discuss our analyses of the regulation of accessibility of the TCR beta and TCR alpha/delta loci during T-cell development.

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