T cell receptor V gamma genes rearrange to the J gamma 1 gene segment in a highly ordered fashion during development. We demonstrate a striking correlation between the pattern of expression of unrearranged V gamma genes and the timing of their rearrangement. Thus, the increases in V gamma 2 rearrangements, and decreases in V gamma 3 and V gamma 4 rearrangements observed during development are paralleled by increasing or decreasing levels of the corresponding unrearranged V gene transcript. We also provide evidence that both the V gamma 3 and V gamma 4 genes are accessible in mature V gamma 3+ cells, but that the V gamma 4 gene may be inaccessible in the progenitors of V gamma 3 cells. The results suggest that regulated local accessibility of the chromatin surrounding V gamma genes is responsible for ordered V gamma gene rearrangement during development.