Superantigens encoded in the genome or released by bacteria have been identified as potent modulators of the murine immune system. High frequencies of mature or immature T cells are activated or intrathymically deleted when superantigens crosslink MHC class II molecules and the Vβ element of the TCR. The Vβ specificity discriminates superantigens from polyclonal T cell stimulators as well as specific Ag and determines the immunomodulatory role in shaping the T cell repertoire. A similar regulatory function of superantigens in the human immune system is less well established. Here, we have studied a series of human T cell clones sharing the TCR Vβ6 element and describe a surprising heterogeneity in their responsiveness to staphylococcal exotoxins. The Vβ6 gene segment had the ability to respond to all staphylococcal enterotoxins (SE); however, for individual T cell clones, there was a clear predominance of SE C3 reactivity compared to SE B and SE C2. The clonal heterogeneity of SE responsiveness did not correlate to sequence polymorphisms in the fourth hypervariable region of the Vβ6 segment, the presumptive binding site for superantigens. Superantigen reactivity was crucially influenced by the presenting HLA-DR molecule, especially when the superantigen served as a coligand, enhancing or suppressing the Ag-specific activation of the TCR. These data suggest that the correlation between human TCR Vβ gene segments and superantigen responses is not stringent. Potential intrathymic deletion mechanisms controlled by superantigens may be less selective in humans and may result in a leakiness influenced by the host HLA-DR molecules.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Immunology|
|State||Published - 1992|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy