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To determine the significance of the result, it must always be interpreted in the context of other clinicopathologic information.
The interpretation of the presence or absence of a predominant T-cell receptor (TCR)-gene rearrangement profile is sometimes subjective.
The detection of a clonal TCR-gene rearrangement by this test is not necessarily synonymous with the presence of a T-cell neoplasm. False-positive results can occur because of the sensitivity of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique and the problem of nonuniform (skewed) amplification of target T-cell gene rearrangements. The latter problem can occur when the total T-cell number in a sample is limited, or because of physiologic skewing of the T-cell repertoire as seen with aging, posttransplantation, or T-cell reactions in autoimmune or (nonlymphoid) malignancies. False-negative results can occur for many reasons, including tissue sampling, poor amplification, or failure to detect a small minority of T-cell gene segment rearrangements with the use of consensus PCR primers. In some cases, an indeterminate or equivocal result will occur because the pattern of gene rearrangements is abnormal (compared to typical polyclonal T-cell processes), but not definitive, for a monoclonal T-cell population. In these situations, distinction of a small monoclonal subpopulation from an over-represented, but reactive, population may not be possible.
The T-cell receptor (TCR) genes (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma) are comprised of numerous, discontinuous coding segments that somatically rearrange to produce heterodimeric cell surface TCR, either alpha/beta (90%-95% of T cells) or gamma/delta (5%-10% of T cells). With rare exceptions (eg, some neoplastic B-lymphoid proliferations), other cell types retain the germline configuration of the TCR genes without rearrangement.
The marked diversity of somatic TCR-gene rearrangements is important for normal immune functions but also serves as a valuable marker to distinguish abnormal T-cell proliferations from reactive processes. A monoclonal expansion of a T-cell population will result in the predominance of a single TCR-gene rearrangement pattern. In contrast, reactive T-cell expansions are polyclonal (or multiclonal), with no single clonotypic population predominating in the population of T cells. These distributive differences in both TCR sequence and genomic rearrangement fragment sizes can be detected by molecular techniques (ie, polymerase chain reaction) and used to determine if a population of T cells shows monoclonal or polyclonal features.