Structural and functional properties of antibodies to the superantigen TSST-1 and their relationship to menstrual toxic shock syndrome

J Clin Immunol. 2007 May;27(3):327-38. doi: 10.1007/s10875-007-9072-4. Epub 2007 Mar 6.


Menstrual toxic shock syndrome (mTSS) is an acute febrile disease accompanied by hypotension and multiple organ involvement. Infection with Staphylococcus aureus producing the superantigen toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 (TSST-1) vaginally is necessary; however, only a small fraction of those infected with TSST-1 producing bacteria actually develop mTSS, suggesting that host factors modulate disease susceptibility. Serum antibodies to the toxin protect against development of the syndrome, but not all antibodies can neutralize the toxin. We set out to determine whether risk of developing the syndrome is related to the absence of neutralizing antibody and if antibody isotypes influence the neutralization capacity. In healthy subjects, TSST-1-binding serum antibodies were exclusively of the IgG and IgM classes; however, toxin-neutralizing capacity was correlated to the TSST-1-specific IgG1 and IgG4 antibodies (r (2)=0.88, p<0.0001 and 0.33, p<0.0086, respectively) but not with IgM antibodies. Specific IgA was not detectable. Compared to healthy matched controls who were colonized vaginally with S. aureus, IgG1 anti-TSST-1 antibodies and toxin neutralizing activity was lacking in all of the acute phases and in the majority of convalescent sera, suggesting that these patients may be incapable of generating TSST-1 neutralizing antibodies. These new findings support the hypothesis that host factors are important in the development of mTSS and that the anti-toxin isotype impacts antibody functionality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Antibodies / classification
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / immunology*
  • Child
  • Enterotoxins / immunology*
  • Female
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Menstruation / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Shock, Septic / epidemiology
  • Shock, Septic / immunology*
  • Shock, Septic / pathology*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology
  • Superantigens / immunology*


  • Antibodies
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Enterotoxins
  • Superantigens
  • enterotoxin F, Staphylococcal