Development of the alphabeta and gammadelta T cell lineages is dependent upon the rearrangement and expression of the TCRalpha and beta or gamma and delta genes, respectively. Although the timing and sequence of rearrangements of the TCRalpha and TCRbeta loci in adult murine thymic precursors has been characterized, no similar information is available for the TCRgamma and TCRdelta loci. In this report, we show that approximately half of the total TCRdelta alleles initiate rearrangements at the CD44highCD25+ stage, whereas the TCRbeta locus is mainly in germline configuration. In the subsequent CD44lowCD25+ stage, most TCRdelta alleles are fully recombined, whereas TCRbeta rearrangements are only complete on 10-30% of alleles. These results indicate that rearrangement at the TCRdelta locus can precede that of TCRbeta locus recombination by one developmental stage. In addition, we find a bias toward productive rearrangements of both TCRdelta and TCRgamma genes among CD44highCD25+ thymocytes, suggesting that functional gammadelta TCR complexes can be formed before the rearrangement of TCRbeta. These data support a model of lineage commitment in which sequential TCR gene rearrangements may influence alphabeta/gammadelta lineage decisions. Further, because TCR gene rearrangements are generally limited to T lineage cells, these analyses provide molecular evidence that irreversible commitment to the T lineage can occur as early as the CD44highCD25+ stage of development.