Human T cell clones and a cDNA probe specific for constant regions of the beta subunit of the antigen/major histocompatibility complex (MHC) receptor, TiC beta 1 and TiC beta 2, were employed to determine whether these genes were differentially used by functional classes of T lymphocytes. DNA from 10 interleukin-2-dependent T cell clones including class I and class II MHC-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (n = 6), T4+ inducer T lymphocytes (n = 2), and T8+ suppressor T lymphocytes (n = 2) showed rearrangement of the TiC beta 1 gene on Southern blot analysis with or without deletion of the other TiC beta 1 allele. In contrast, TiC beta 2 always remained in germline configuration. Moreover, the finding that one additional suppressor clone deleted both TiC beta 1 alleles, maintained a germline TiC beta 2 configuration, and yet actively transcribed TiC beta 2 message suggested that TiC beta 2 is not a pseudogene. Rather, it appeared to be used less frequently than the TiC beta 1 gene and in the absence of detectable DNA rearrangements. Together, these results demonstrate that the functional repertoire (or isotype) of a given subclass of T cells is not encoded within the Ti beta genes.