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Nature. 1991 Jan 17;349(6306):245-8.

Programmed cell death and extrathymic reduction of Vbeta8+ CD4+ T cells in mice tolerant to Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin B.

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Department of Immunology and Medical Genetics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Clonal deletion and functional inactivation of self-reactive cells have been invoked as mechanisms underlying intrathymic development of T-cell tolerance. The relative importance of these mechanisms in the development of tolerance of more mature, peripheral T cells either to self or to exogenous antigens is unclear, although recent data relate the development of T-cell tolerance in the periphery to clonal anergy. We have now investigated the induction of extrathymic tolerance using BALB/c mice that were made tolerant to Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin B, a superantigen which specifically interacts in such mice with T cells bearing V beta 8 antigen receptors. Both euthymic and athymic mice made tolerant to S. aureus enterotoxin B had a markedly reduced number of V beta 8.1,2+ CD4+ peripheral T cells. This reduction was accompanied by genomic DNA fragmentation that is associated with cell death. These results indicate that a deletional mechanism can contribute to the induction of T-cell tolerance in peripheral lymphoid cells.

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