Severe immune-related adverse events (irAEs) occur in up to 60% of patients with melanoma treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs). However, it is unknown whether a common baseline immunological state precedes irAE development. Here we applied mass cytometry by time of flight, single-cell RNA sequencing, single-cell V(D)J sequencing, bulk RNA sequencing and bulk T cell receptor (TCR) sequencing to study peripheral blood samples from patients with melanoma treated with anti-PD-1 monotherapy or anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 combination ICIs. By analyzing 93 pre- and early on-ICI blood samples and 3 patient cohorts (n = 27, 26 and 18), we found that 2 pretreatment factors in circulation—activated CD4 memory T cell abundance and TCR diversity—are associated with severe irAE development regardless of organ system involvement. We also explored on-treatment changes in TCR clonality among patients receiving combination therapy and linked our findings to the severity and timing of irAE onset. These results demonstrate circulating T cell characteristics associated with ICI-induced toxicity, with implications for improved diagnostics and clinical management.