Pyrogenic toxin superantigen site specificity in toxic shock syndrome and food poisoning in animals

Patrick M. Schlievert, Lynn M. Jablonski, Manuela Roggiani, Ingrid Sadler, Scott Callantine, David T. Mitchell, Douglas H Ohlendorf, Gregory A. Bohach

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82 Scopus citations


Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes express pyrogenic toxin superantigens (PTSAgs) that are associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and staphylococcal food poisoning (SFP). Most PTSAgs cause TSS in deep-tissue infections, whereas only TSS toxin 1 (TSST-1) is associated with menstrual, vaginal TSS. In contrast, SFP has been linked only with staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs). Because of the differential abilities of PTSAgs to cause systemic or localized symptoms in a site-dependent manner, the present study was undertaken to assess the toxins' abilities to cross mucosal barriers. The activity of three PTSAgs when delivered orally, vaginally, or intravenously to rabbits and orally to monkeys was investigated. TSST-1 induced shock via all three routes in rabbits. Although active when administered intravenously, SEC1 and streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A (SPEA) did not cause symptoms when administered orally or vaginally. Only SEC1 induced emesis in the monkey feeding assay. TSST-1, albeit less stable than SEC1 and SPEA to pepsin, induced diarrhea in monkeys. Our results may explain the unique association of TSST-1 with menstrual TSS and why SPEA is only rarely associated with TSS after pharyngitis, despite being highly associated with TSS after subcutaneous infections. Finally, our studies indicate that enterotoxicity in SFP is not the result of superantigenicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3630-3634
Number of pages5
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000


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