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Immunol Res. 1996;15(2):98-113.

Role of the T cell receptor alpha-chain in superantigen recognition.

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Department of Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn. 38105, USA.


Superantigens bind to antigen-presenting cells on the outside of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecule and to T cells via the external face of the T cell receptor (TCR) V beta element. As a consequence, superantigens stimulate populations of T cells in a V beta-specific, non-MHC-restricted manner. However, accumulating evidence has shown an additional contribution of the TCR alpha-chain and polymorphic residues of the MHC molecule to superantigen recognition by some T cells. These data suggest that the TCR and MHC come into contact during superantigen engagement and indirectly modulate the superantigen reactivity. Thus, additional interactions between non-V beta elements of the TCR and MHC play a role in the overall stability of the superantigen/MHC/TCR complex, explaining the influence of the TCR alpha-chain. It is likely that this additional interaction is of greater consequence for weakly reactive T cells. This modulation of superantigen reactivity in individual T cells may have physiological consequences, for example, in the induction of autoimmunity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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