The adaptive immune system has to economically generate a large array of T and B cell antigen receptors (T cell receptors [TCRs], B cell receptors [BCRs]) that eliminate both longstanding and novel antigens from the host while preventing the production of deleterious (e.g., autoreactive) antigen receptors. Our studies focus on the mechanisms that shape the development of these antigen receptor repertoires during human ontogeny. The key to BCR and TCR diversity is the third complementarity determining region (CDR3) of the variable domain, which in the immunoglobulin heavy chain and TCR β chain, is created by the junction between the variable, diversity, and joining gene segments. The CDR3 diversity is constrained by overrepresentation of gene segments and lack of N regions during the first trimester of gestation and then increases exponentially during ontogeny until it reaches adult levels months after birth. This process parallels, and may contribute to, the stepwise acquisition of the ability to respond to specific antigens. Recent studies indicate that maturation of the CDR3 repertoire is not accelerated by premature exposition to extrauterine antigen and thus appears to follow a strictly developmentally regulated program whose pacemaker(s) is still unknown.