Statistical analysis of CDR3 length distributions for the assessment of T and B cell repertoire biases

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Complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) length distribution analysis explores the diversity of the T cell receptor (TCR) and immunoglobulin (Ig) repertoire at the transcriptome level. Studies of the CDR3, the most hypervariable part of these molecules, have been frequently used to identify recruitment of T and B cell clones involved in immunological responses. CDR3 length distribution analysis gives a clear perception of repertoire variations between individuals and over time. However, the complexity of CDR3 length distribution patterns and the high number of possible repertoire alterations per individual called for the development of robust data analysis methods. The goal of these methods is to identify, quantify and statistically assess differences between repertoires so as to offer a better diagnostic or predictive tool for pathologies involving the immune system. In this review we will explain the benefit of analyzing CDR3 length distribution for the study of immune cell diversity. We will start by describing this technology and its associated data processing, and will subsequently focus on the statistical methods used to compare CDR3 length distribution patterns. Finally, we will address the various methods for assessing CDR3 length distribution gene signatures in pathological states.

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