Improved molecular methods allow identification of the specific autoaggressive T cells involved in autoimmune inflammations. In this study of interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein-induced uveitis, TCR V beta usage was studied using RNA-polymerase chain reaction amplification of transcripts derived directly from ocular tissues and from T cell lines obtained from the spleen. Specific V beta 5' primers from the major murine TCR V beta families were coupled with a common 3' primer from the V beta C region. Amplification of rearranged TCR V beta-D beta-J beta-C beta sequences was confirmed by Southern blot analysis. In ocular tissue from sensitized mice, TCR V beta expression was limited mainly to one to three V beta families, with predominant expression of V beta 2, V beta 12, and V beta 15. In most animals there was similar, albeit limited, TCR gene usage in both the recognition of autoantigen in uveitogenic T cell lines and at the site of inflammation in the eye. Identification of a limited TCR V beta repertoire in Ag-reactive T cell lines correlated with TCR usage at the target site of autoimmune expression. The gene products of the restricted TCR V beta rearrangements found in lesions and in the cell lines may serve as the target for selective immunotherapy.

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