Product(s) used in this publication: PepMix™ Peptide Pools
αβ T cells respond to peptide epitopes presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. The role of T cell receptor (TCR) germline complementarity determining regions (CDR1 and 2) in MHC restriction is not well understood. Here, we examine T cell development, MHC restriction and antigen recognition where germline CDR loop structure has been modified by multiple glycine/alanine substitutions. Surprisingly, loss of germline structure increases TCR engagement with MHC ligands leading to excessive loss of immature thymocytes. MHC restriction is, however, strictly maintained. The peripheral T cell repertoire is affected similarly, exhibiting elevated cross-reactivity to foreign peptides. Our findings are consistent with germline TCR structure optimising T cell cross-reactivity and immunity by moderating engagement with MHC ligands. This strategy may operate alongside co-receptor imposed MHC restriction, freeing germline TCR structure to adopt this novel role in the TCR-MHC interface.