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J Immunol. 1999 Feb 15;162(4):2299-307.

Bacterial superantigens induce down-modulation of CC chemokine responsiveness in human monocytes via an alternative chemokine ligand-independent mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada.


Staphylococcal superantigens (SAgs) are very potent T cell mitogens, but they can also activate monocytes by binding directly to MHC class II molecules in a manner independent of TCR coengagement. Induction of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokine expression in monocytes by superantigens has recently been reported. Here we report that superantigen stimulation of human peripheral blood monocytes results in a rapid, dose-dependent, and specific down-regulation of chemokine (macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha (MIP-1alpha), monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and MIP-1beta) binding sites (e.g., CCR1, CCR2, and CCR5), which correlates with a concomitant hyporesponsiveness of human monocytes to these CC chemokine ligands. This down-regulation occurs 15-30 min following superantigen stimulation and is specific to chemokine receptors, in that binding and responsiveness of monocytes to the chemoattractant formyl-tripeptide FMLP are not affected. We further demonstrate that SAg-induced down-modulation of chemokine binding and monocyte hyporesponsiveness to the chemokines MIP-1alpha, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, and MIP-1beta is mediated through cellular protein tyrosine kinases, and the down-modulation can be mimicked by an MHC class II-specific mAb. Additionally, our observations indicate that SAg-induced loss of chemokine binding and monocyte responsiveness is probably mediated by secreted serine proteinases. Bacterial SAg-induced down-modulation of chemokine responsiveness represents a previously unrecognized strategy by some bacteria to subvert immune responses by affecting the intricate balance between chemokine and chemokine receptor expression and function.

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