Diversity of T-cell receptor alpha gene transcripts in the newborn and adult periphery
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Recent studies have demonstrated that the diversity of T-cell receptor alpha (Tcra) gene expression may be confined by a developmental program for gene rearrangement. To examine the effect of age on Tcra gene usage in peripheral tissues, a comparison of Tcr transcripts from newborn and adult mouse splenocytes was made. RNA was first isolated from the spleens of newborn (within five days from birth) and adult B10.BR mice. The polymerase chain reaction was then used to assess the presence of Tcra-V1, Tcra-V2, and Tcra-V3 gene sequences within the two RNA pools. The Tcra-V2 transcript was frequent in both newborn and adult populations and was therefore selected for sequencing analyses, by which V-gene family member and J gene usage could be delineated. Forty-one sequences were obtained, demonstrating Tcra-V2 gene family structure in the B10.BR mouse. Six family members were identified, of which four were new. Although there were differences in gene usage between newborn and adult animals, some junctional diversity added to the repertoire of both populations. A striking feature of V-J joining, as illustrated by this study, was the restriction of combinations based on the J gene location within the Tcra locus. The Tcra-V2 gene of dominant expression in the newborn (B10.BR.6) rearranged exclusively with the 30 most 5' Tcra-J genes. The Tcra-V2 gene of dominant expression at the adult stage (B10.BR.1) rearranged exclusively with the 21 most 3' Tcra-J genes in the locus. Thus, V-J combinatorial diversity was restricted in both newborn and adult mice, yielding a trend from 5'-3' Tcra-J gene usage with age. Inherent restrictions in V-J combinations should now be considered with regard to antigen responsiveness, particularly in the young animal. Qualitative restrictions in Tcr repertoire, compounding low T-cell numbers in peripheral tissues, may well contribute to functional voids and immunodeficiencies in early life.
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