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Two distinct types of T-cell receptors (TCR), designated alpha beta and gamma delta, have been identified on the surface of T cells. In the adult, T cells bearing the gamma delta TCR are a minority and they have the phenotype CD3+, CD4-, CD8-/+. By using appropriate probes, rearrangements of the TCR alpha, beta, and gamma genes have been extensively investigated in a variety of lymphoproliferative disorders. Because the TCR delta gene has been cloned only recently, no comparable information exists with respect to this in human leukemias. We report the analysis of the TCR delta gene configuration in 21 T-cell acute and chronic leukemias, 40 B-cell leukemias, 4 acute myeloid leukemias of difficult classification, and 12 normal controls. The TCR delta genes were structurally modified in all T-cell disorders and in germ-line configuration in all controls and all but one case of non-T-cell leukemias tested. In one case of T-chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CD3+, CD4-, CD8+) we found rearrangement and expression of TCR gamma and delta (but not alpha and beta), suggesting that leukemic transformation took place in a cell bearing a TCR gamma delta rather than a TCR alpha beta. In two cases of pre-T-acute lymphoblastic leukemia, only delta was rearranged out of the three TCR genes tested. This finding is in keeping with the suggestion that the TCR delta gene might be the first to rearrange in T cell ontogeny, and that its mode of rearrangement may play a role in the subsequent choice of the cell between production of a TCR alpha beta or gamma delta. Thus, TCR delta chain gene analysis can provide novel information of the clonal nature of T-cell disorders, particularly if the analysis of the beta and gamma genes has not been helpful.


Journal article



Publication Date





559 - 565


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, DNA Probes, Female, Gene Rearrangement, T-Lymphocyte, Genes, Immunoglobulin, Humans, Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains, Leukemia, T-Cell, Male, Middle Aged, Phenotype, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell