T cells respond in a V beta-restricted fashion to bacterial enterotoxins bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules. The requirement for CD4 in MHC class II-restricted T cell responses is very well established. We have assessed the role of CD4 in the T cell response to the bacterial enterotoxins Staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA), SEB, and toxic shock syndrome toxin 1. Three CD4- murine T cell hybridomas were transfected with the human CD4 molecule and assayed for interleukin 2 production in the presence of accessory cells bearing human MHC class II molecules and of the appropriate enterotoxin. The results clearly indicate that CD4- cells responded even to suboptimal concentrations of enterotoxin(s) equally well as CD4+ cells. Furthermore, expression of CD4 did not result in the acquisition of previously undetectable reactivity to enterotoxins. These results suggest that unlike the case with antigen-specific responses, formation of a T cell receptor-CD3/CD4 supramolecular complex is not always essential for T cell activation by bacterial enterotoxins.

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