Superantigenic Toxins

  • B. Fleischer
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 145)


“Superantigens” is the designation for a heterogeneous group of proteins that use a common, extremely efficient mechanism of T-lymphocyte stimulation. They bind to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class-II molecules on antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and to various parts of the T cell receptor (TCR) on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, thus mimicking the recognition of specific antigens. The prototype superantigen is staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE) B, member of a family of genetically related pyrogenic exotoxins (PET) produced by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. This principle of T-lymphocyte stimulation has evolved independently because of infectious pathogens.

Investigations by a number of laboratories have elucidated the unusual mechanism of T-lymphocyte stimulation and have shown that the pathogenic effects of these molecules are due to their ability to stimulate a large fraction of T cells. Consequences of confronting the body with superantigenic toxins are shock (mediated by a massive liberation of cytokines from cells of the immune system) and immunosuppression, probably caused by an uncoordinated activation of the immune system and a massive deletion of T cells.


Staphylococcal Enterotoxin Clostridium Perfringens Enterotoxin Scarlet Fever Toxin Streptococcal Pyrogenic Exotoxin Superantigenic Toxin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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