The primary structure of the alpha and beta chains of the T cell antigen receptor in four cytotoxic T cell clones specific for N-iodoacetyl-sulfonic-naphthyl-ethylene-diamine (AED)-haptenated target cells displaying a particular class I MHC molecule has been determined. Two of the T cell clones, 8/10-2 and 5/10-20K, recognize AED-modified targets in association with H-2Kb, while the other two clones 5/10-20D and C9 react with AED-modified cells in the context of H-2Db. Comparison of the nucleotide sequences of both the alpha and beta chain cDNAs and their deduced protein sequences indicates that a specific variable gene segment was not used to recognize the hapten and/or class I gene products. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any conserved amino acid residues used in the AED-specific response other than the framework amino acids. However, when the two clones 8/10-2 and 5/10-20D were compared, a striking similarity was seen in the J segments. These two clones that recognize AED in the context of different MHC epitopes used identical J alpha (J alpha 810) and J beta (J beta 2.6) gene segments. C9, specific for AED-Db, shared identical V beta (V beta 6) and J beta gene segments (J beta 1.1) as those of a cytotoxic T cell that recognizes allogeneic targets expressing Db. These data indicate that a simple rule governing the usage of the variable regions of either the alpha or beta T cell receptor (TcR) genes in the recognition of antigen and MHC gene products cannot be formulated. However, subtle similarities can be detected in some situations between the primary structures of the TcR and the targets they recognize.

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