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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 15, 1993; 90(18): 8543–8546.

Staphylococcal enterotoxins can reactivate experimental allergic encephalomyelitis.


Staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs) are one member of a unique group of molecules known as superantigens. They are potent T-cell activators and stimulate a large number of T cells bearing specific T-cell-receptor beta-chain variable regions. It has been proposed that superantigens may trigger autoimmune disorders by stimulation of autoreactive T cells with restricted beta-chain variable-chain usage. We investigated the effects of SEs B and A (SEB and SEA) on the reactivation of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, an animal model for multiple sclerosis. We report that SEB can reinduce encephalitis multiple times in PL/J mice that had previously recovered from an acute episode. SEB was also able to induce encephalitis in mice previously immunized with myelin basic protein but did not show clinical signs of disease. In addition, it was observed that T cells from PL/J mice that had been previously activated by myelin basic protein in complete Freund's adjuvant or in complete Freund's adjuvant alone were resistant to the induction of anergy by SEB. To determine whether reactivation of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis was specific for SEB, another superantigen, SEA, was employed. It was found that SEA was also able to reinduce experimental allergic encephalomyelitis in mice previously recovered from an acute episode and those that had been previously immunized with myelin basic protein but did not show clinical signs of disease. These results indicate that SEs are capable of reactivating autoreactive T cells and inducing autoimmune disease.

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