Chapter 4 : Viral Superantigens in Mice and Humans

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Adaptive immunity relies on the antigen-specific B cell (BCR) and T cell (TCR) receptors to survey for pathogenic events. Upon recognition of a microbe by these receptors, an immune response is initiated, resulting in the differentiation of the antigen-specific lymphocytes into effector cells, which eliminate the pathogen. According to the IMGT database, there are 23 and 18 functional T cell (TCR) receptors Vβ-families in humans and mice, respectively. The majority of known superantigens (SAgs) are of either bacterial or viral origin, the prototypes being the bacterial pathogens and and the murine mammary tumor virus (MMTV). While the exogenous virus encoded SAg is critical for the viral infection, the expression of endogenous MMTV SAgs leads to thymic deletion of T cells with the corresponding Vβ-chains, hence rendering the mice resistant to infection by exogenous MMTV encoding SAgs with the same Vβ specificity. During thymic maturation, only T cells that receive signals above a certain threshold survive by undergoing positive selection. Expression of a strong endogenous SAg during the negative selection process often results in thymic deletion of the entire population of T-cell expression TCR Vβ-chains that are reactive to the SAg, while a weak SAg activity leads to partial deletion or anergy of the reactive T cells.

Citation: Tai A, Huber B. 2007. Viral Superantigens in Mice and Humans, p 59-75. In Kotb M, Fraser J (ed), Superantigens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815844.ch4

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Human immunodeficiency virus 1
Immune Receptors
Major Histocompatibility Complex
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Figure 1.

The HERV-K18 provirus. The HERV-K18 provirus is mapped to the chromosomal region 1q23.1-24.1, within the SLAM family gene cluster. Specifically, it is located within the first intron of the cellular gene, but is in opposite transcriptional orientation. It is 9.2 kb and contains a functional ORF for the gene only. There are three alle-les of HERV-K18 env: K18.1, K18.2, and K18.3. Both K18.2 and K18.3 are predicted to encode a full-length Env protein of 560 amino acids. On the other hand, K18.1 is predicted to encode a truncated Env protein of 153 amino acids, as a result of a mutation converting the codon for tryptophan at position 154 into a stop codon. The three alleles are highly homologous to each other. The degree of homology between the two proviral LTRs encoding each allele is shown.

Citation: Tai A, Huber B. 2007. Viral Superantigens in Mice and Humans, p 59-75. In Kotb M, Fraser J (ed), Superantigens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815844.ch4
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Table 1.

Vβ specificity of exogenous and endogenous viral SAgs

Citation: Tai A, Huber B. 2007. Viral Superantigens in Mice and Humans, p 59-75. In Kotb M, Fraser J (ed), Superantigens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815844.ch4

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