Chronic deletion, escape from deletion and activation of mouse mammary tumor virus superantigen-reactive T cells in C57BL/10 mice

Eur J Immunol. 1999 May;29(5):1456-66. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199905)29:05<1456::AID-IMMU1456>3.0.CO;2-D.


Though C57BL/10 mice express the mouse mammary tumor virus superantigens (sag) encoded by Mtv-8 and Mtv-9, it has been thought that these sag do not bind to the MHC class II molecule H2-Ab and consequently do not affect the T cell repertoire. However, we show that cells bearing TCR Vbeta chains specific for Mtv-8 and -9 sag are chronically deleted in C57BL/10 mice. Thymocytes and peripheral T cells escaping deletion by Mtv sag display a small reduction in the level of cell surface CD4. T cells escaping thymic deletion respond variably to endogenous Mtv sag with some, but not all, reactive populations appearing overrepresented in the activated/memory subset. The data suggest that in normal mice fine modulation of coreceptor expression levels may be a common way by which thymocytes escape elimination, that systems utilizing potentially Mtv sag-reactive TCR on a C57BL background may be inappropriate for the measurement of the affinity of TCR/MHC/peptide interactions required in thymic selection, and that detection of the activity of human sag may be aided by analysis of CD4 levels and activation markers on T cells in conjunction with studies of the frequency of cells bearing specific TCRVbeta chains.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology*
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • H-2 Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Depletion
  • Mammary Tumor Virus, Mouse / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Superantigens / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Viral
  • CD4 Antigens
  • H-2 Antigens
  • H-2A antigen
  • Superantigens