Send to

Choose Destination
Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):210-22.

Regulation of helper T cell responses to staphylococcal superantigens.

Author information

Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver Hospital, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.


Staphylococcal superantigens (sAgs) including toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) and related enterotoxins are exoproteins with unique immunobiological properties. They bind to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules of antigen-presenting cells outside the peptide groove, and induce massive proliferation of T cells bearing specific V beta determinants. This tri-molecular interaction leads to uncontrolled release of various proinflammatory cytokines especially interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-alpha), the key cytokines causing sAg-mediated shock. The effector T cells involved in this hyper-immune response are predominantly of the T helper-1 (Th1) phenotype. There is also some evidence that polarization to a Th2 response with the production of classical anti-inflammatory cytokines (such as interleukins IL-4 and IL-6) also occurs. Moreover, the emergence of a novel regulatory T cell (Tr1) subset, producing mainly IL-10 but little or no IL-2 and IL-4, has recently been described following repeated sAg stimulation. In this review, the current knowledge regarding the regulation of T helper cell subsets in response to staphylococcal sAgs is critically evaluated, and the role of various cytokines which directly influence T cell differentiation and polarization is summarized. Particular emphasis is directed towards pro-inflammatory as well as anti-inflammatory and regulatory effector functions during toxic shock. Based on this review, we propose that a delayed production of IL-10 by Tr1 cells may be the most prominent driving force in the down-regulation of the Th1 hyper-immune response, and the critical determinant for the eventual recovery of the host.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for John Libbey Eurotext
Loading ...
Support Center