Recognition of conventional foreign antigen by T cells is determined by the expression of multiple variable regions of both alpha and beta chains of the T cell receptor (TCR) alpha/beta heterodimer. In contrast, there exists a class of antigens that appears to interact with the TCR alpha/beta heterodimer through the variable region on the beta chain (V beta), independent of other TCR components, a property that has led to their designation as superantigens. The goal of the present study was to analyze V alpha use in V beta 6+ T cells responsive to the superantigen, Mlaa. Results indicate that while deletion of T cells expressing V beta 6 in Mlsa-expressing mice is essentially complete and therefore appears to occur regardless of V alpha usage, in vitro Mlsa stimulation of T cells from Mlsa-negative mice results in significant skewing of V alpha use among responding V beta 6+ T cells. This indicates that V alpha expression influences recognition of the superantigen, Mlsa by mature peripheral T cells.

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