Structural diversity of lymphocyte antigen receptors (the immunoglobulin [Ig] of B cells and the alpha/beta or gamma/delta T cell receptor [TCR] of T cells) is generated through somatic rearrangements of V, D, and J gene segments. Classically, these recombination events involve gene segments from the same Ig or TCR locus. However, occurrence of "trans" rearrangements between distinct loci has also been described, although in no instances was the surface expression of the corresponding protein under normal physiological conditions demonstrated. Here we show that hybrid TCR genes generated by trans rearrangement between V gamma and (D) J beta elements are translated into functional antigen receptor chains, paired with TCR alpha chains. Like classical alpha/beta T cells, cells expressing these hybrid TCR chains express either CD4 or CD8 coreceptors and are frequently alloreactive. These results have several implications in terms of T cell repertoire selection and relationships between TCR structure and specificity. First, they suggest that TCR alloreactivity is determined by the repertoire selection processes operating during lymphocyte development rather than by structural features specific to V alpha V beta regions. Second, they suggest the existence of close structural relationships between gamma/delta and alpha/beta TCR and more particularly, between V gamma and V beta regions. Finally, since a significant fraction of PBL (at least 1/10(4)) expressed hybrid TCR chains on their surface, these observations indicate that trans rearrangements significantly contribute to the combinatorial diversification of the peripheral immune repertoire.