T-cell receptor (Tcr) α chains are classified into four subgroups (I, II, III, and miscellaneous) based on the amino acid residues at positions 61 and 62. Subgroup I has Gly Phe at these positions, subgroup II has Arg Phe, subgroup III has Arg Leu, and subgroup miscellaneous has several other combinations. Variability plots for subgroups I, II, and III sequences show higher values around positions 93-103, 105, 108, 111, 113, and 115, suggesting that these positions may interact with the processed antigen molecules. Smaller peaks are present at various other regions which may bind the major histocompatibility complex class I or II molecules. The patterns of variability within one subgroup are similar for all species, for human alone, and for mouse alone. These subgroup patterns appear much less complicated than patterns for sequences in all subgroups taken together, implying that subgroups may be related to Tcr functions. Among 83 mouse chains, 15 are from cytotoxic cells and 40 from helper cells. Of the 15 from cytotoxic cells, 11, 2, 0, and 2 are in subgroups I, II, III, and miscellaneous; and of the 40 from helper cells, 9, 16, 12, ans 3 are in subgroups I, II, III, and miscellaneous, respectively. Thus, a correlation between sequence and function of Tcr α chains seems possible.
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