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Eur J Immunol. 1993 Jul;23(7):1494-500.

Pathogenesis of the toxic shock syndrome: T cell mediated lethal shock caused by the superantigen TSST-1.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene Technical University of Munich, FRG.


The pathogenesis of the toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is only incompletely understood. We now present evidence that TSS toxin-1 (TSST-1), one of the superantigens produced by Staphylococcus aureus, induces lethal shock in D-galactosamine sensitized mice. In this model TSS is dependent on T cells, since cyclosporin A (CsA) completely blocked development of shock, and since T cell-deficient SCID mice did not show signs of disease upon injection with TSST-1. However, SCID mice repopulated with T cells succumbed to lethal shock. The disease is characterized by a burst of lymphokines like interleukin-2 (IL-2) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) released into the sera of TSST-1-treated animals. Already 1-2 h after TSST-1 application TNF serum levels peaked and IL-2 levels peaked around 4 h after treatment. TNF appears as key mediator of TSS, because anti-TNF monoclonal antibodies protected TSST-1-challenged mice. Interestingly, the burst of TNF in serum was noted well in advance of detectable markers of T cell activation. Thus, about 5% of all peripheral T cells started to express the IL-2 receptors as late as 4 h after treatment. Comparing TSST-1- and endotoxin-induced shock we conclude that TNF effects shock in both diseases. However, the type of cells involved appears distinct in that T cells cause TSS triggered by the exotosin TSST-1 while macrophages mediate the shock induced by endotoxins.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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