A prerequisite for the assembly of a functional TCR is the rearrangement of gene segments to result in in-frame transcripts that can vary in length across the CDR3 region. Selection for in-frame 3-bp spaced rearrangements is observed for functional TCRB genes in thymocyte DNA and mRNA transcripts from PBMC. Previous analyses of the expressed human TCRBV gene repertoire have suggested that BV10S1 and BV19S1 gene segments may be expressed at very low levels or not at all in some individuals. CDR3 size analysis for BV10 and BV19 transcripts and thymic DNA rearrangements revealed no such selection of in-frame 3-bp spaced rearrangements. Comparison of the BV19 leader intron sequence with consensus 5'-splice signal sequences suggested that the mature mRNA for this gene would contain the unspliced leader intron. Sequencing of BV19 transcripts from PBMC confirmed that the intron was not spliced, resulting in a predicted translation product that terminates prematurely. Both genomic DNA and mRNA were analyzed for the BV10 gene. The leader sequence contained a single extra base, which would result in a shift in the V region reading frame upon conventional mRNA splicing. This gene is predicted to be nonfunctional due to the presence of a stop codon in the V gene segment just after the splice signal. A splice variant that uses an alternative 3'-splice site further downstream in the V region was also detected. This variant is predicted to be nonfunctional due to the presence of an in-frame stop codon in the V region. These processing defects are sufficient to abrogate positive selection. Therefore, the conclusions drawn from previous studies of the expressed T cell repertoire in normal and disease states based on the presumed functional status of these two genes need to be reassessed.

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