The low frequency of precursor cells specific for any particular antigen (Ag) makes it difficult to characterize preimmune T cell receptor (TCR) repertoires and to understand repertoire selection during an immune response. We have undertaken a combined adoptive transfer single-cell PCR approach to probe the Ag-specific preimmune repertoires of individual mice. Our strategy was to inject paired irradiated recipient mice with normal spleen cells prepared from individual donors and to compare the TCR repertoires subsequently selected during a CD8 response to a defined model Ag. We found that although some TCRs were shared, the TCR repertoires selected by mice receiving splenocytes from the same donor were not identical in terms of the TCRs selected and their relative frequencies. Our results together with computer simulations imply that individual mice express distinct Ag-specific preimmune TCR repertoires composed of expanded clones and that selection by Ag is a random process.