T Cell Signalling Induced by Bacterial Superantigens
Chemical Immunology and Allergy
Bacterial superantigens (SAgs) constitute a large family of bacterial toxins that share the capacity to induce massive activation of the human immune system. Such a feature is based on the ability of these toxins to activate T cells that express Beta-chains of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) containing variable regions (V) coded by specific families of VBeta genes. In addition, bacterial SAgs bypass the need for processing by antigen-presenting cells by directly binding to major histocompatibility complex class II molecules on the surface of these cells. Emerging work indicates that bacterial SAgs utilize not only the canonical pathways of TCR-mediated T cell activation but also other pathways. Here, we review the structural information on recognition of bacterial SAgs by T cells, the TCR signalling induced by this recognition event, and the effector functions that this recognition triggers. We analyze experimental evidence suggesting the existence of alternative receptors and coreceptors for bacterial SAgs, and outline future challenges in the research with these toxins.