Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Superantigens could be behind several illnesses

Superantigens, the toxins produced by staphylococcus bacteria, are more complex than previously believed, reveals a team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg in an article published today in the scientific journal Nature Communications. Their discovery shows that the body’s immune system can cause more illnesses than realised.

“Superantigens have a real talent for disrupting the body’s immune system,” says Karin Lindkvist from the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Cell- and Molecular Biology, one of the authors of the article. “If you’re infected with bacteria that secrete superantigens, your immune system will respond so strongly that it’ll make you ill. Our study shows that superantigens activate the immune system in more ways than previously thought.”

We are all exposed daily to various types of foreign organism that can harm us. The human body has therefore developed cells whose role it is to “kill” and remove all foreign invaders that find their way in – the immune system.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become increasingly common with the more widespread use of different types of antibiotics. Yellow staphylococci (Staphylococcus aureus) are one of the most common bacteria in the world around us, with most children and adults carrying them at some point. One strain, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), has developed resistance to penicillin and other penicillin-like antibiotics that are normally used to treat infections caused by staphylococci. Staphylococci can cause a variety of conditions such as long-term wound infections and abscesses, and can also lead to food poisoning.

The toxins produced by staphylococci are also known as superantigens. A normal viral infection will trigger the activation of around 0.0001% of the body’s natural killer cells (T cells), which is enough to destroy the virus. However, contracting bacteria that secrete superantigens leads to the activation of 5-20% of the body’s T cells. Such a strong immune response will often result in illness, which generally involves fever and extreme nausea. Superantigens are also well-known for causing toxic symptoms, as in toxic shock syndrome. There is also some speculation as to whether superantigens can cause autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“By investigating how superantigens activate the immune system via its T cells, we’ve been able to show that they bind to more than one part of the T cell receptor,” says Lindkvist. “This is an important discovery for our understanding of superantigens’ biological function, and for the future development of a vaccine against superantigens. We haven’t yet looked at whether other superantigens can activate T cells in the same complex way, but it’s reasonable to assume that they can.”

In addition to Karin Lindkvist, the research team behind the discovery comprises Maria Saline, Karin Rödström, Gerhard Fischer, Vladislav Orekhov and Göran Karlsson, all from the University of Gothenburg.

The study The structure of superantigen complexed with TCR and MHC reveals novel insights into superantigenic T cell activation has been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Fur further information, please contact:
Karin Lindkvist, Department of Cell- and Molecular Biology, University of Gothenburg
Tel.: +46 (0)31 786 39 12

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1
27.10.2016 | NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute

nachricht 'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape
27.10.2016 | International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>