Superantigens of mouse mammary tumor virus

Annu Rev Immunol. 1995:13:459-86. doi: 10.1146/annurev.iy.13.040195.002331.


Superantigens (SAgs) are proteins of microbial origin that bind to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules and stimulate T cells via interaction with the V beta domain of the T cell receptor (TCR). Mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) is a milk-transmitted type B retrovirus that encodes a SAg in its 3' long terminal repeat. Upon MMTV infection, B cells present SAg to the appropriate T cell subset, which leads to a strong "cognate" T-B interaction. This immune reaction results in preferential clonal expansion of infected B cells and differentiation of some of these cells into long-lived memory cells. In this way a stable MMTV infection is achieved that ultimately results in infection of the mammary gland and virus transmission via milk. Thus, in contrast to many microorganisms that attempt to evade the host immune system (reviewed in 1), MMTV depends upon a strong SAg-induced immune response for its survival. Because of their ability to stimulate very strong T cell responses in MHC-identical mice, minor lymphocyte stimulatory (Mls) antigens, discovered more than 20 years ago, are now known to be SAgs encoded by endogenous MMTV proviruses that have randomly integrated into germ cells. The aim of this review is to combine the extensive biology of Mls SAgs with our current understanding of the life cycle of MMTV.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / biosynthesis
  • Antigen Presentation
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / virology
  • Mammary Tumor Virus, Mouse / genetics
  • Mammary Tumor Virus, Mouse / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Minor Lymphocyte Stimulatory Antigens* / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Retroviridae Infections / virology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Minor Lymphocyte Stimulatory Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta