The T cell receptor structure and genetic organization have been thought to have been stable in vertebrate evolution relative to the immunoglobulins. For the most part, this has been true and the content and organization of T cell receptor genes has been fairly conserved over the past 400 million years of gnathostome evolution. Analyses of TCRδ chains in a broad range of vertebrate lineages over the past decade have revealed a remarkable and previously unrealized degree of plasticity. This plasticity can generally be described in two forms. The first is broad use of antibody heavy chain variable genes in place of the conventional Vδ. The second form containing an unusual three extracellular domain structures has evolved independently in both cartilaginous fishes and mammals. Two well-studied vertebrate lineages, the eutherian mammals such as mice and humans and teleost fishes, lack any of these alternative TCR forms, contributing to why they went undiscovered for so long after the initial description of the conventional TCR chains three decades ago. This chapter describes the state of knowledge of these unusual TCR forms, both their structure and genetics, and current ideas on their function.
Hansen, V. L., & Miller, R. D. (2015). The evolution and structure of atypical t cell receptors. In Results and Problems in Cell Differentiation (Vol. 57, pp. 265–278). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20819-0_11