Staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) is a member of a family of gram-positive bacterial exotoxins which act as superantigens in both mouse and man. The administration of this toxin has been shown to inhibit antibody responses in vivo. We have previously shown that SEB is a potent inducer in vitro of multiple T suppressor cell populations. The present studies show that administration of microgram quantities of this toxin results in a reduced capacity to manifest a delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response. In addition, we find that the failure to generate a normal DTH response appears to be due to the generation of a T suppressor cell population following SEB administration. Adoptive transfer studies show that the suppressor cells bear the CD5+ I-J+ CD4- CD8- Thy 1+ surface phenotype. The relationship of these cells to suppressor T cell populations generated following in vitro activation by SEB is discussed.
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