Superantigens (SAgs) are a family of potent immunostimulatory exotoxins known to be produced by only a few bacterial pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus. More than 20 distinct SAgs have been characterized from different S. aureus strains and at least 80% of clinical strains harbor at least one SAg gene, although most strains encode many. SAgs have been classically associated with food poisoning and toxic shock syndrome (TSS), for which these toxins are the causative agent. TSS is a potentially fatal disease whereby SAg-mediated activation of T cells results in overproduction of cytokines and results in systemic inflammation and shock. Numerous studies have also shown a possible role for SAgs in other diseases such as Kawasaki disease (KD), atopic dermatitis (AD), and chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). There is also now a rich understanding of the mechanisms of action of SAgs, as well as their structures and function. However, we have yet to discover what purpose SAgs play in the life cycle of S. aureus, and why such a wide array of these toxins exists. This review will focus on recent developments within the SAg field in terms of the molecular biology of these toxins and their role in both colonization and disease.
Keywords: superantigen, staphylococcal enterotoxin, Staphylococcus aureus, colonization
Citation: Xu SX and McCormick JK (2012) Staphylococcal superantigens in colonization and disease. Front. Cell. Inf. Microbio. 2:52. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2012.00052
Received: 01 February 2012; Accepted: 29 March 2012;
Published online: 17 April 2012.
Edited by:Martin J. McGavin, University of Western Ontario, Canada
Reviewed by:Thomas Proft, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Copyright: © 2012 Xu and McCormick. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.
*Correspondence: John K. McCormick, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond St., London, ON N6A 5C1, Canada. e-mail: email@example.com