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HLA class II polymorphisms determine responses to bacterial superantigens

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 01:20 authored by Martin Llewelyn, Shiranee Sriskandan, Mark Peakman, David R Ambrozak, Daniel C Douek, William W Kwok, Jonathan Cohen, Daniel M Altmann
The excessive immunological response triggered by microbial superantigens has been implicated in the etiology of a wide range of human diseases but has been most clearly defined for the staphylococcal and streptococcal toxic shock syndromes. Because MHC class II presentation of superantigens to T cells is not MHC-restricted, the possibility that HLA polymorphisms could influence superantigenicity, and thus clinical susceptibility to the toxicity of individual superantigens, has received little attention. In this study, we demonstrate that binding of streptococcal and staphylococcal superantigens to HLA class II is influenced by allelic differences in class II. For the superantigen streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A, class II binding is dependent on DQ alpha-chain polymorphisms such that HLA-DQA1*01 alpha-chains show greater binding than DQA1*03/05 alpha-chains. The functional implications of differential binding on T cell activation were investigated in various experimental systems using human T cells and murine Vbeta8.2 transgenic cells as responders. These studies showed quantitative and qualitative differences resulting from differential HLA-DQ binding. We observed changes in T cell proliferation and cytokine production, and in the Vbeta specific changes in T cell repertoire that have hitherto been regarded as a defining feature of an individual superantigen. Our observations reveal a mechanism for the different outcomes seen following infection by toxigenic bacteria.


Publication status

  • Published


Journal of Immunology




American Association of Immunologists





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  • BSMS Publications

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  • Yes

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