Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) recognize virus peptide fragments complexed with class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules on the surface of virus-infected cells. Recognition is mediated by a membrane-bound T-cell receptor (TCR) composed of α and β chains. Studies of the CTL response to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) in H-2b mice have revealed that three distinct viral epitopes are recognized by CTL of the H-2b haplotype and that all of the three epitopes are restricted by the Db MHC molecule. The immunodominant Db-restricted CTL epitope, located at LCMV glycoprotein amino acids 278 to 286, was earlier noted to be recognized by TCRs that consistently contained Vα4 segments but had heterogeneous Vβ segments. Here we show that CTL clones recognizing the other two H-2Db-restricted epitopes, LCMV glycoprotein amino acids 34 to 40 and nucleoprotein amino acids 397 to 407 (defined in this study), utilize TCR α chains which do not belong to the Vα4 subfamily. Hence, usage of Vα and Vβ in the TCRs recognizing peptide fragments from one virus restricted by a single MHC molecule is not sufficiently homogeneous to allow manipulation of the anti-viral CTL response at the level of TCRs. The diversity of anti-viral CTL likely provides the host with a wider option for attacking virus-infected cells and prevents the emergence of virus escape mutants that might arise if TCRs specific for the virus were homogeneous.
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