TCR beta chain gene expression of individual T cell clones that share the same MHC class II restriction and similar fine specificity for the encephalitogenic NH2 terminus of the autoantigen myelin basic protein (MBP) has been examined. TCR V beta expression was examined by FACS analysis with mAbs specific for the V beta 8 subfamily of TCR beta chain genes. 14 of 18 (78%) NH2-terminal MBP-specific clones examined express a member of the TCR V beta 8 subfamily. Southern analysis was used to identify which member(s) of the TCR V beta 8 subfamily is expressed by these clones. Each of four clones examined uses V beta 8.2, though two different V beta 8.2-J beta 2 combinations were identified. Our findings indicate that there is restricted TCR V beta usage in the autoimmune T cell response to the dominant encephalitogenic NH2-terminal epitope of the MBP. The use of an mAb to the antigen-specific TCR in the prevention of T cell-mediated autoimmune disease has been investigated. Our results demonstrate that in vivo administration of a TCR V beta 8-specific mAb prevents induction of autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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