Non-productive antigen receptor genes with frame shifts generated during the assembly of these genes are found in many mature lymphocytes. Transcripts from these genes have premature termination codons (PTCs) and could encode truncated proteins if they are not either inactivated or destroyed by nonsense-mediated decay (NMD). In mammalian cells, NMD can be activated by pathways that rely on the presence of an intron downstream of the PTC; however, NMD can also be activated by pathways that do not rely on these downstream introns, and pathways independent of NMD can inactivate PTC-containing transcripts. Here, through the generation and analysis of mice with gene-targeted modifications of the endogenous T cell receptor beta (Tcrb) locus, we demonstrate that in T cells in vivo, optimal clearance of PTC-containing Tcrb transcripts depends on the presence of an intron downstream of the PTC. © 2011 Mahowald et al.