17 T cell clones and 3 T cell lines, specific for pigeon cytochrome c, were analyzed for fine specificity and rearranged T cell receptor (TCR) gene elements. Clones of similar fine specificities were grouped into one of four phenotypes, and correlations between phenotype differences and gene usage could be made. All the lines and clones rearranged a member of the V alpha 2B4 gene family to a limited number of J alpha regions. The beta chain was made up of one of three non-cross-hybridizing V beta regions, each rearranging to only one or two J beta s. The use of alternate V beta regions could be correlated with phenotype differences, which were manifested either as MHC- or MHC and antigen-specificity changes. In addition, the presence of alloreactivity, which defined a phenotype difference, could be correlated solely with the use of an alternate J alpha region. These observations were substantiated by prospective analyses of pigeon cytochrome c-specific T cell lines that were selected for alternate MHC specificity or alloreactivity and were found to express the correlated alpha and beta chain rearrangements. Previously, the TCR DNA sequences from two clones, each representing a variant of one phenotype, showed sequence differences only in the N regions of their TCR genes. Since only these two variants, using identical V alpha-J alpha and V beta-J beta gene elements, were repeatedly observed in this study, we would predict that the junctional diversity differences are selectable. In this T cell response, all the gene elements involved in the generation of diversity appear to be selected, and may therefore be important in the determination of TCR specificity. This high degree of receptor gene selection represents a fundamental difference from the diversity seen in several extensively analyzed antibody responses.