Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) has been shown in the past to be a potent T cell stimulant in mouse or man. The toxin acts as a superantigen that is, it binds to class II MHC proteins and, as such a complex, stimulates T cells bearing particular V beta s as part of their receptors. The toxin also has several pathological effects, causing, in mice, rapid weight loss, thymus atrophy, immunosuppression, and, at high doses, death. The data in this paper show that at least one of these effects, weight loss, is T cell mediated. Staphylococcal enterotoxin-mediated weight loss is MHC dependent, and is almost absent in animals expressing MHC class II molecules, which, complexed with SEB, are poor T cell stimulants. Also, mice that lack T cell function, genetically or because of cyclosporin A treatment, lose no or less weight than controls in response to SEB. Finally, animals bred such that they express few T cells bearing V beta s with which SEB can interact lose much less weight in response to the toxin than littermate controls that have higher numbers of reactive T cells. It is therefore suggested that the pathological effects of the staphylococcal, T cell-stimulating toxins in mouse and man may be partially or wholly the consequence of massive T cell stimulation.

This content is only available as a PDF.