Microbial superantigens: from structure to function

Trends Microbiol. 2000 Aug;8(8):369-75. doi: 10.1016/s0966-842x(00)01793-5.


Superantigens are highly potent immune stimulators with a unique ability to interact simultaneously with MHC class II molecules and T cell receptors, forming a trimolecular complex that induces profound T-cell proliferation and massive cytokine production. Recent structural studies have provided a wealth of information regarding these complex interactions, and it is now emerging that, despite their common 3-D architecture, superantigens are able to crosslink MHC class II molecules and T cell receptors in a variety of ways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Genes, MHC Class II / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism
  • Superantigens / chemistry
  • Superantigens / immunology*
  • Superantigens / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Viruses / immunology*
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Superantigens
  • Zinc