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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 1999 Sep;25(4):355-63.

The superantigenic activity of streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B is independent of the protease activity.

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Department of Clinical Bacteriology, UmeƄ University, Sweden.


The nature of the mitogenic activity of pyrogenic streptococcal exotoxin B, also known as streptococcal cysteine protease, has been debated in the literature. Streptococcal exotoxin B has been shown to cleave interleukin-1beta precursor and create biologically active interleukin-1beta, a major cytokine mediating inflammation and shock. This activity could mimic the mitogenicity and cytokine release induced by superantigens in lymphocyte stimulating experiments. In this study, the protease activity of streptococcal exotoxin B was irreversibly inhibited by covalent binding of a tripeptide and the superantigenic properties of streptococcal exotoxin B were found not to be influenced by this inactivation. Native as well as protease-inactivated streptococcal exotoxin B was shown to stimulate T-cell proliferation without a need of metabolically active antigen presenting cells. Furthermore, streptococcal exotoxin B-induced T-cell proliferation was shown to require HLA-DQ since addition of HLA-DQ monoclonal antibodies totally inhibited the mitogenic activity of streptococcal exotoxin B, indicating that streptococcal exotoxin B, as other superantigens, makes direct contact with the T-cell receptor via HLA class II. The aim of this study was to characterize the relationship between the proteolytic and superantigenic properties of streptococcal exotoxin B.

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