ABSTRACT: Superantigens (SAgs) are microbial toxins defined by their ability to activate T lymphocytes in a T cell receptor (TCR) β-chain variable domain (Vβ)-specific manner. Although existing structural information indicates that diverse bacterial SAgs all uniformly engage the Vβ second complementarity determining region (CDR2β) loop, the molecular rules that dictate SAg-mediated T cell activation and Vβ specificity are not fully understood. Herein we report the crystal structure of human Vβ2.1 (hVβ2.1) in complex with the toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) SAg, and mutagenesis of hVβ2.1 indicates that the non-canonical length of CDR2β is a critical determinant for recognition by TSST-1 as well as the distantly related SAg streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin C. Frame work (FR) region 3 is uniquely critical for TSST-1 function explaining the fine Vβ-specificity exhibited by this SAg. Furthermore, domain swapping experiments with SAgs, which use distinct domains to engage both CDR2β and FR3/4β revealed that the CDR2β contacts dictate T lymphocyte Vβ-specificity. These findings demonstrate that the TCR CDR2β loop is the critical determinant for functional recognition and Vβ-specificity by diverse bacterial SAgs.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2011; 286(6):4871-81. · 4.77 Impact Factor