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Role of the immune response induced by superantigens in the pathogenesis of microbial infections.
Superantigens (SAgs) are microbial proteins which have potent effects on the immune system. They are presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules and interact with a large number of T cells expressing specific T cell receptor V beta domains. Encounter of a SAg leads initially to the stimulation and subsequently to the clonal deletion of reactive T cells. SAgs are expressed by a wide variety of microorganisms which use them to exploit the immune system to their own advantage. Bacterial SAgs are exotoxins which are linked to several diseases in humans and animals. A classical example is the toxic shock syndrome in which the massive release of cytokines by SAg-reactive cells is thought to play a major pathogenic role. The best characterized viral SAg is encoded by mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV) and has proved to have a major influence on the viral life cycle by dramatically increasing the efficiency of viral infection. In this paper, we review the general properties of SAgs and discuss the different types of microorganisms which produce these molecules, with a particular emphasis on the role played by the SAg-induced immune response in the course of microbial infections.
Animals, Antigens, Bacterial/immunology, Antigens, Protozoan/immunology, Antigens, Viral/immunology, Bacterial Infections/immunology, Bacterial Infections/pathology, Humans, Superantigens/chemistry, Superantigens/classification, Toxoplasma/immunology, Toxoplasmosis/immunology, Virus Diseases/immunology, Virus Diseases/pathology
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