Human T cell receptor (TcR) gamma delta displays a variety of protein forms. Disulfide-linked (type 1) or non disulfide-linked (type 2) receptors occur, with gamma chains encoded by the C gamma 1 or the C gamma 2 gene segment, respectively. Exon 2 of C gamma 2 may either be duplicated or triplicated (type 2a or 2b receptors). TcR gamma chains differ in molecular mass and charge between type 1 and type 2 receptors. The delta chains as well as the gamma chains have different structural properties between receptor types. This cannot be due to the use of different C delta gene segments, since the genome encodes only one. To understand the genetic basis of this dichotomy in gamma/delta combinations, rearrangement and expression of V gamma, J gamma, C gamma and V delta gene segments were determined in TcR gamma/delta+ clones derived randomly from peripheral blood of normal donors. Most clones used C gamma 1, a minority C gamma 2. The different protein properties of receptor types could be explained by the non-random expression of V gamma (J gamma) and V delta gene segments. Type 1 receptors preferentially used gamma chains encoded by the V gamma 9 and J gamma 1.2 gene segments together with delta chains encoded by V delta 2. In type 2a receptors, V gamma 9 was not predominant; often other V gamma gene segments were employed, but then in high frequency in coordination with V delta 1. Reactivity of the clones with monoclonal antibodies anti-Ti gamma A, BB3 and delta-TCS-1 correlated with the expression of the V gamma 9, V delta 2 and V delta 1 gene segments, respectively. Therefore, V gamma and V delta use in TcR gamma/delta+ cells from peripheral blood of eight healthy individuals, including the two donors of the clones, could be determined tentatively by double immunofluorescence. Indeed, the V gamma 9-V delta 2 combination was predominant, while the V gamma 9-V delta 1 and particularly the V gamma 9-"V delta other" combination was rare. These data indicate that the TcR gamma delta repertoire in peripheral blood of normal individuals is largely dependent on junctional diversity and suggest that selection of receptors occurs.