H-2b class I-restricted, TNP-specific CTL clones were obtained by limiting dilution cloning of either short term polyclonal CTL lines or spleen cells of TNP-immunized mice directly ex vivo. Sequence analyses of mRNA coding for TCR alpha- and beta-chains of 11 clones derived from CTL lines from individual C57BL/6 mice revealed that all of them expressed unique but clearly nonrandom receptor structures. Five alpha-chains (45%) employed V alpha 10 gene elements, and four of those (36%) were associated with J beta 2.6-expressing beta-chains. The alpha-chains from these four TCR, moreover, contained an acidic amino acid in position 93 of their N or J region-determined sequences. Clones isolated directly from spleen cells carried these types of receptors at lower frequency, 27% V alpha 10 and 19% J beta 2.6, indicating that bulk in vitro cultivation on Ag leads to selection for these particular receptors. However, even in TNP-specific CTL cloned directly ex vivo, V alpha 10 usage was increased about fivefold over that in Ag-independently activated T cells in H-2b mice (4 to 5%). The selection for V alpha 10/J beta 2.6-expressing cells was obtained repeatedly in other TNP-specific CTL lines from C57BL/6 mice but not in FITC-specific CTL from the same strain or in TNP-specific CTL lines from B10.BR (H-2k) or B10.D2 (H-2d) mice. We conclude from this (a) that the selection for V alpha 10/J beta 2.6+ T cells is driven by the complementarity of these receptors to a combination of TNP and MHC epitopes and (b) that predominant receptor structures reflect the existence of a surprisingly limited number of "T cell-relevant" hapten determinants on the surface of covalently TNP-modified cells.

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