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Toxicon. 2001 Nov;39(11):1691-701.

Superantigen bacterial toxins: state of the art.

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Département de Microbiologie des Ecosystèmes, Institut Pasteur de Lille, Lille, France.


Superantigens (SAgs) are viral and bacterial proteins exhibiting a highly potent polyclonal lymphocyte-proliferating activity for CD4(+), CD8(+) and sometimes gammadelta(+) T cells of human and (or) various animal species. Unlike conventional antigens, SAgs bind as unprocessed proteins to invariant regions of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules on the surface of antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and to particular motifs of the variable region of the beta chain (Vbeta) of T-cell receptor (TcR) outside the antigen-binding groove. As a consequence, SAgs stimulate at nano-to picogram concentrations up to 10 to 30% of host T-cell repertoire while only one in 10(5)-10(6) T cells (0.01-0.0001%) are activated upon conventional antigenic peptide binding to TcR. SAg activation of an unusually high percentage of T lymphocytes initiates massive release of pro-inflammatory and other cytokines which play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of the diseases provoked by SAg-producing microorganisms. We briefly describe in this review the molecular and biological properties of the bacterial superantigen toxins and mitogens identified in the past decade.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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