Cytolytic and helper T cells exhibit, in addition to their specificity for foreign antigen, a restriction specificity for self MHC gene products. The present study was designed to assess the degree of diversity within the repertoire of receptors that are involved in T cell recognition of self MHC gene products. For this purpose, we generated a series of murine cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones specific for a hapten antigen and restricted to the self MHC gene product H-2Kb. An analysis of the hapten fine specificity of these clones by using hapten analogues revealed the presence of substantial diversity within the repertoire of CTL receptors specific for the hapten. The degree of diversity within the repertoire of self H-2 recognition structures on these clones was assessed by testing clones on panels of syngeneic, congenic H-2K disparate, and H-2Kb mutant target cells bearing varying amounts of antigen. A striking degree of heterogeneity in H-2K recognition was found among these H-2Kb restricted CTL. We estimate that there are probably a minimum of 65 different patterns of H-2K recognition among these clones. Our results suggest a high degree of diversity exists within the repertoire of self MHC recognition structures on antigen-specific T cells restricted to a single self MHC gene product.

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