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J Exp Med. 1997 Feb 3;185(3):471-80.

Paracrine transfer of mouse mammary tumor virus superantigen.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Immunologie Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal, Canada.


Transfer of vSAG7, the endogenous superantigen encoded in the Mtv7 locus, from MHC class II to MHC class II+ cells has been suggested to occur both in vivo and in vitro. This transfer usually leads to the activation and deletion of T cells expressing responsive V beta s. However, there is no direct molecular evidence for such a transfer. We have developed an in vitro system which confirms this property of vSAGs. vSAG7 was transfected into a class II murine fibroblastic line. Coculture of these cells with class II+ cells and murine T cell hybridomas expressing the specific V beta s led to high levels of IL-2 production which was specifically inhibited by vSAG7- and MHC class II-specific mAbs. Moreover, injection of vSAG7+ class II+ cells in mice led to expansion of V beta 6+ CD4+ cells. We show that this transfer activity is paracrine but does not require cell-to-cell contact. Indeed, vSAG7 was transferred across semi-permeable membranes. Transfer can occur both from class II+ and class II+ cells, indicating that MHC class II does not sequester vSAG7. Finally, competition experiments using bacterial toxins with well defined binding sites showed that the transferred vSAG7 fragment binds to the alpha 1 domain of HLA-DR.

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