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Immunol Rev. 1998 Jun;163:177-86.

Structure-function studies of T-cell receptor-superantigen interactions.

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Center for Advanced Research in Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Rockville, USA.


Superantigens (SAGs) are a class of disease-causing and immunostimulatory proteins of bacterial or viral origin that activate T cells by binding to the V beta domain of the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR). The three-dimensional structure of the complex between a TCR beta chain (mouse V beta 8.2-J beta 2.1-C beta 1) and the SAG staphylococcal enterotoxin C3 (SEC3) has been recently determined. The complementarity-determining region 2 (CDR2) of the beta chain and, to lesser extents, CDR1 and hypervariable region 4 (HV4) bind in a cleft between the small and large domains of the SAG. A model of the TCR-SAG-peptide/MHC complex constructed from available crystal structures reveals how the SAG acts as a wedge between the TCR and MHC, thereby displacing the antigenic peptide away from the TCR and circumventing the normal mechanism for T-cell activation by peptide/MHC. To evaluate the actual contribution of individual SAG residues to stabilizing the V beta C beta-SEC3 complex, as well as to investigate the relationship between the affinity of SAGs for TCB and MHC and their ability to activate T cells, we measured the binding of a set of SEC3 mutants to a soluble recombinant TCR beta chain and to the human MHC class II molecule HLA-DR1. We show that there is direct correlation between affinity and ability to stimulate T cells, with SAGs having the highest affinity for the TCR being the most biologically active. We also find that there is an interplay between TCR-SAG and SAG-MHC interactions in determining mitogenic potency, such that a small increase in the affinity of a SAG for MHC can overcome a large decrease in the SAG's affinity for the TCR. Finally, we observe that those SEC3 residues that make the greatest energetic contribution to stabilizing the V beta C beta-SEC3 complex are strictly conserved among enterotoxins reactive with mouse V beta 8.2, thereby explaining why SAGs having other residues at these positions show different V beta-binding specificities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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