The staphylococcal enterotoxins and their relatives

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Science  11 May 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4956, pp. 705-711
DOI: 10.1126/science.2185544

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Staphylococcal enterotoxins and a group of related proteins made by Streptococci cause food poisoning and shock in man and animals. These proteins share an ability to bind to human and mouse major histocompatibility complex proteins. The complex ligand so formed has specificity for a particular part of T cell receptors, V beta, and by engaging V beta can stimulate many T cells. It is likely that some or all of the pathological effects of these toxins are caused by their ability to activate quickly so many T cells. It is also possible that encounters with such toxins have caused mice, at least, to evolve mechanisms for varying their T cell V beta repertoires, such that they are less susceptible to attack by the toxins.

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