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Clin Exp Immunol. 2000 Aug;121(2):181-6.

Staphylococcal toxin-induced T cell proliferation in atopic eczema correlates with increased use of superantigen-reactive Vbeta-chains in cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen (CLA)-positive lymphocytes.

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St. John's Institute of Dermatology, Department of Tissue Typing, King's College, London, UK.


Staphylococcal superantigens have been implicated in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis (AD). This may occur through superantigenic activation of T lymphocytes and their subsequent induction of the skin homing receptor CLA on activated cells. We investigated the proliferative responses of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 10 patients with an infective exacerbation of AD and six normal controls to the staphylococcal superantigens, staphylococcal enterotoxin A and B (SEA, SEB) and toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1), and the mitogens phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and concanavalin A (Con A). We also assessed CLA and T cell receptor (TCR) Vbeta-chain expression by immunofluorescence and flow cytometry before and after stimulation. PBMC from AD patients showed two-fold increased proliferation to SEA and SEB (P < 0.01) compared with normals, whereas the response to mitogenic stimulation was identical. Analysis of (TCR) Vbeta-chain expression demonstrated increased use of superantigen-reactive Vbeta families in freshly isolated PBMC in AD patients compared with controls. This pattern of Vbeta-chain expression was only observed in the CLA+ but not the total population of T cells. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between the enhanced PBMC proliferative response and increased expression of superantigen-reactive Vbeta families in atopic patients. These data support the concept that superantigens are important in the pathogenesis of this common condition, and also provide evidence that the increased use of certain Vbeta families in circulating, CLA+, skin homing lymphocytes is of functional significance.

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