The capacity of Staphylococcal enterotoxins to stimulate all T cells bearing certain T cell receptors has recently generated a great deal of interest. These toxins are believed to bind directly both to the TCR:CD4 complex via its Vβ domains and to class II MHC molecules on accessory cells prior to T cell activation. Previous studies from this laboratory have demonstrated that staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) is capable of inducing multiple T suppressor cell populations which can inhibit in vitro antibody responses. Additional studies have demonstrated that the suppressive activity of these cells is mediated, at least in part, by an I-J-restricted suppressor factor. Efforts to characterize the inhibitory activity of this factor have demonstrated that the suppressive element is capable of activating both early and late acting suppressor cell populations in vitro. Analysis by both positive and negative selection shows that cells bearing the Lyt1-2+ surface marker phenotype are active early, whereas Lyt1+2+ cells are active both early and late in the antibody response. Additional experiments using various strains of mice as sources of suppressor factor and of naive splenocyte populations have demonstrated that activation of suppressor-effector cells by this suppressor factor is restricted at the I-J, but not Igh, gene locus. These studies suggest that this SEB-induced suppressor factor alone provides the signals necessary for the induction and activation of suppressor-effector cell activity.
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