The T cell repertoire is shaped by positive and negative selection of thymocytes through the interaction of α/β-T cell receptors (TCR) with self- peptides bound to self-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. However, the involvement of specific TCR-peptide contacts in positive selection remains unclear. By fixing TCR-β chains with a single rearranged TCR-β irrelevant to the selecting ligand, we show here that T cells selected to mature on a single MHC-peptide complex express highly restricted TCR-α chains in terms of Vα usage and amino acid residue of their CDR3 loops, whereas such restriction was not observed with those selected by the same MHC with diverse sets of self-peptides including this peptide. Thus, we visualized the TCR structure required to survive positive selection directed by this Single ligand. Our findings provide definitive evidence that specific recognition of self-peptides by TCR could be involved in positive selection of thymocytes.
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