MAIT cells launch a rapid, robust and distinct hyperinflammatory response to bacterial superantigens and quickly acquire an anergic phenotype that impedes their cognate antimicrobial function: Defining a novel mechanism of superantigen-induced immunopathology and immunosuppression.
ABSTRACT: Superantigens (SAgs) are potent exotoxins secreted by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. They target a large fraction of T cell pools to set in motion a "cytokine storm" with severe and sometimes life-threatening consequences typically encountered in toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Given the rapidity with which TSS develops, designing timely and truly targeted therapies for this syndrome requires identification of key mediators of the cytokine storm's initial wave. Equally important, early host responses to SAgs can be accompanied or followed by a state of immunosuppression, which in turn jeopardizes the host's ability to combat and clear infections. Unlike in mouse models, the mechanisms underlying SAg-associated immunosuppression in humans are ill-defined. In this work, we have identified a population of innate-like T cells, called mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, as the most powerful source of pro-inflammatory cytokines after exposure to SAgs. We have utilized primary human peripheral blood and hepatic mononuclear cells, mouse MAIT hybridoma lines, HLA-DR4-transgenic mice, MAIThighHLA-DR4+ bone marrow chimeras, and humanized NOD-scid IL-2R?null mice to demonstrate for the first time that: i) mouse and human MAIT cells are hyperresponsive to SAgs, typified by staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB); ii) the human MAIT cell response to SEB is rapid and far greater in magnitude than that launched by unfractionated conventional T, invariant natural killer T (iNKT) or ?? T cells, and is characterized by production of interferon (IFN)-?, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-? and interleukin (IL)-2, but not IL-17A; iii) high-affinity MHC class II interaction with SAgs, but not MHC-related protein 1 (MR1) participation, is required for MAIT cell activation; iv) MAIT cell responses to SEB can occur in a T cell receptor (TCR) V?-specific manner but are largely contributed by IL-12 and IL-18; v) as MAIT cells are primed by SAgs, they also begin to develop a molecular signature consistent with exhaustion and failure to participate in antimicrobial defense. Accordingly, they upregulate lymphocyte-activation gene 3 (LAG-3), T cell immunoglobulin and mucin-3 (TIM-3), and/or programmed cell death-1 (PD-1), and acquire an anergic phenotype that interferes with their cognate function against Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli; vi) MAIT cell hyperactivation and anergy co-utilize a signaling pathway that is governed by p38 and MEK1/2. Collectively, our findings demonstrate a pathogenic, rather than protective, role for MAIT cells during infection. Furthermore, we propose a novel mechanism of SAg-associated immunosuppression in humans. MAIT cells may therefore provide an attractive therapeutic target for the management of both early and late phases of severe SAg-mediated illnesses.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus produces superantigens (SAgs) that bind and cross-link T cells and APCs, leading to activation and proliferation of immune cells. SAgs bind to variable regions of the ?-chains of T cell receptors (V?-TCRs), and each SAg binds a unique subset of V?-TCRs. This binding leads to massive cytokine production and can result in toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The most abundantly produced staphylococcal SAgs and the most common causes of staphylococcal TSS are TSS toxin-1 (TSST-1), and staphylococcal enterotoxins B and C (SEB and SEC, respectively). There are several characterized variants of humans SECs, designated SEC1-4, but only one variant of SEB has been described. Sequencing the seb genes from over 20 S. aureus isolates show there are at least five different alleles of seb, encoding forms of SEB with predicted amino acid substitutions outside of the predicted immune-cell binding regions of the SAgs. Examination of purified, variant SEBs indicates that these amino acid substitutions cause differences in proliferation of rabbit splenocytes in vitro. Additionally, the SEBs varied in lethality in a rabbit model of TSS. The SEBs were diverse in their abilities to cause proliferation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and differed in their activation of subsets of T cells. A soluble, high-affinity V?-TCR, designed to neutralize the previously characterized variant of SEB (SEB1), was able to neutralize the variant SEBs, indicating that this high-affinity peptide may be useful in treating a variety of SEB-mediated illnesses.
Project description:Superantigens (SAgs) are a class of immunostimulatory exotoxins that activate large numbers of T cells, leading to overproduction of cytokines and subsequent inflammatory reactions and systemic toxicity. Staphylococcal enterotoxin C (SEC), a SAg secreted by Staphylococcus aureus, has been implicated in various illnesses including non-menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and necrotizing pneumonia. SEC has been shown to cause TSS illness in rabbits and the toxin contributes to lethality associated with methicillin-resistant S.aureus (MRSA) in a rabbit model of pneumonia. With the goal of reducing morbidity and mortality associated with SEC, a high-affinity variant of the extracellular variable domain of the T-cell receptor beta-chain for SEC (~14 kDa) was generated by directed evolution using yeast display. This protein was characterized biochemically and shown to cross-react with the homologous (65% identical) SAg staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB). The soluble, high-affinity T-cell receptor protein neutralized SEC and SEB in vitro and also significantly reduced the bacterial burden of an SEC-positive strain of MRSA (USA400 MW2) in an infective endocarditis model. The neutralizing agent also prevented lethality due to MW2 in a necrotizing pneumonia rabbit model. These studies characterize a soluble high-affinity neutralizing agent against SEC, which is cross-reactive with SEB, and that has potential to be used intravenously with antibiotics to manage staphylococcal diseases that involve these SAgs.
Project description:Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and other superantigen-mediated illnesses are associated with 'systemic' immunosuppression that jeopardizes the host's ability to fight pathogens. Here, we define a novel mechanism of 'local' immunosuppression that may benefit the host. Systemic exposure to staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) rapidly and selectively recruited CD11b(+)Gr-1(high)Ly-6C(+) granulocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) to the liver of HLA-DR4 transgenic mice. Hepatic MDSCs inhibited SEB-triggered T cell proliferation in a reactive oxygen species-dependent manner, and ex vivo-generated human MDSCs also similarly attenuated the proliferative response of autologous T cells to SEB. We propose a role for MDSCs in mitigating excessive tissue injury during TSS.
Project description:Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is caused by staphylococcal and streptococcal superantigens (SAgs) that provoke a swift hyperinflammatory response typified by a cytokine storm. The precipitous decline in the host's clinical status and the lack of targeted therapies for TSS emphasize the need to identify key players of the storm's initial wave. Using a humanized mouse model of TSS and human cells, we herein demonstrate that SAgs elicit in vitro and in vivo IL-17A responses within hours. SAg-triggered human IL-17A production was characterized by remarkably high mRNA stability for this cytokine. A distinct subpopulation of CD4+ effector memory T (TEM) cells that secrete IL-17A, but not IFN-?, was responsible for early IL-17A production. We found mouse "TEM-17" cells to be enriched within the intestinal epithelium and among lamina propria lymphocytes. Furthermore, interfering with IL-17A receptor signaling in human PBMCs attenuated the expression of numerous inflammatory mediators implicated in the TSS-associated cytokine storm. IL-17A receptor blockade also abrogated the secondary effect of SAg-stimulated PBMCs on human dermal fibroblasts as judged by C/EBP ? expression. Finally, the early IL-17A response to SAgs was pathogenic because in vivo neutralization of IL-17A in humanized mice ameliorated hepatic and intestinal damage and reduced mortality. Together, our findings identify CD4+ TEM cells as a key effector of TSS and reveal a novel role for IL-17A in TSS immunopathogenesis. Our work thus elucidates a pathogenic, as opposed to protective, role for IL-17A during Gram-positive bacterial infections. Accordingly, the IL-17-IL-17R axis may provide an attractive target for the management of SAg-mediated illnesses.
Project description:Infection with (SAg)-producing bacteria may precede or follow infection with or vaccination against influenza A viruses (IAVs). However, how SAgs alter the breadth of IAV-specific CD8+ T cell (TCD8) responses is unknown. Moreover, whether recall responses mediating heterosubtypic immunity to IAVs are manipulated by SAgs remains unexplored. We employed wild-type (WT) and mutant bacterial SAgs, SAg-sufficient/deficient Staphylococcus aureus strains, and WT, mouse-adapted and reassortant IAV strains in multiple in vivo settings to address the above questions. Contrary to the popular view that SAgs delete or anergize T cells, systemic administration of staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB) or Mycoplasma arthritidis mitogen before intraperitoneal IAV immunization enlarged the clonal size of 'select' IAV-specific TCD8 and reshuffled the hierarchical pattern of primary TCD8 responses. This was mechanistically linked to the TCR V? makeup of the impacted clones rather than their immunodominance status. Importantly, SAg-expanded TCD8 retained their IFN-? production and cognate cytolytic capacities. The enhancing effect of SEB on immunodominant TCD8 was also evident in primary responses to vaccination with heat-inactivated and live attenuated IAV strains administered intramuscularly and intranasally, respectively. Interestingly, in prime-boost immunization settings, the outcome of SEB administration depended strictly upon the time point at which this SAg was introduced. Accordingly, SEB injection before priming raised CD127highKLRG1low memory precursor frequencies and augmented the anamnestic responses of SEB-binding TCD8. By comparison, introducing SEB before boosting diminished recall responses to IAV-derived epitopes drastically and indiscriminately. This was accompanied by lower Ki67 and higher Fas, LAG-3 and PD-1 levels consistent with a pro-apoptotic and/or exhausted phenotype. Therefore, SAgs can have contrasting impacts on anti-IAV immunity depending on the naïve/memory status and the TCR composition of exposed TCD8. Finally, local administration of SEB or infection with SEB-producing S. aureus enhanced pulmonary TCD8 responses to IAV. Our findings have clear implications for superinfections and prophylactic vaccination.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus is a versatile bacterial pathogen that produces T cell-activating toxins known as superantigens (SAgs). Although excessive immune activation by SAgs can induce a dysregulated cytokine storm as a component of what is known as toxic shock syndrome (TSS), the contribution of SAgs to the staphylococcal infection process is not well defined. Here, we evaluated the role of the bacterial superantigen staphylococcal enterotoxin A (SEA) in a bacteremia model using humanized transgenic mice expressing SAg-responsive HLA-DR4 molecules. Infection with S. aureus Newman induced SEA-dependent V? skewing of T cells and enhanced bacterial survival in the liver compared with infection by sea knockout strain. SEA-induced gamma interferon, interleukin-12, and chemokine responses resulted in increased infiltration of CD11b(+) Ly6G(+) neutrophils into the liver, promoting the formation of abscesses that contained large numbers of viable staphylococci. Hepatic abscesses occurred significantly more frequently in S. aureus Newman-infected livers than in livers infected with the Newman sea knockout strain, promoting the survival of S. aureus in vivo. This represents a novel mechanism during infection whereby S. aureus utilizes SAgs to form a specialized niche and manipulate the immune system.
Project description:Bacterial superantigens (SAgs) are exotoxins produced mainly by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes that can cause toxic shock syndrome (TSS). According to current paradigm, SAgs interact directly and simultaneously with T cell receptor (TCR) on the T cell and MHC class II (MHC-II) on the antigen-presenting cell (APC), thereby circumventing intracellular processing to trigger T cell activation. Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional APCs that coat nearly all body surfaces and are the most probable candidate to interact with SAgs. We demonstrate that SAgs are taken up by mouse DCs without triggering DC maturation. SAgs were found in intracellular acidic compartment of DCs as biologically active molecules. Moreover, SAgs co-localized with EEA1, RAB-7 and LAMP-2, at different times, and were then recycled to the cell membrane. DCs loaded with SAgs are capable of triggering in vitro lymphocyte proliferation and, injected into mice, stimulate T cells bearing the proper TCR in draining lymph nodes. Transportation and trafficking of SAgs in DCs might increase the local concentration of these exotoxins where they will produce the highest effect by promoting their encounter with both MHC-II and TCR in lymph nodes, and may explain how just a few SAg molecules can induce the severe pathology associated with TSS.
Project description:Staphylococcus aureus and group A Streptococcus secrete a collection of toxins called superantigens (SAgs), so-called because they stimulate a large fraction of an individual's T cells. One consequence of this hyperactivity is massive cytokine release leading to severe tissue inflammation and, in some cases, systemic organ failure and death. The molecular basis of action involves the binding of the SAg to both a T cell receptor (TCR) on a T cell and a class II product of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on an antigen presenting cell. This cross-linking leads to aggregation of the TCR complex and signaling. A common feature of SAgs is that they bind with relatively low affinity to the variable region (V) of the beta chain of the TCR. Despite this low affinity binding, SAgs are very potent, as each T cell requires only a small fraction of their receptors to be bound in order to trigger cytokine release. To develop high-affinity agents that could neutralize the activity of SAgs, and facilitate the development of detection assays, soluble forms of the V? regions have been engineered to affinities that are up to 3 million-fold higher for the SAg. Over the past decade, six different V? regions against SAgs from S. aureus (SEA, SEB, SEC3, TSST-1) or S. pyogenes (SpeA and SpeC) have been engineered for high-affinity using yeast display and directed evolution. Here we review the engineering of these high-affinity V? proteins, structural features of the six different SAgs and the V? proteins, and the specific properties of the engineered V? regions that confer high-affinity and specificity for their SAg ligands.
Project description:The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is an important cause of the life-threatening condition toxic shock syndrome in humans. Bacterial toxins known as superantigens (SAgs) generate this illness by acting as broad activators of a substantial fraction of all T lymphocytes, bypassing the normally highly stringent T-cell receptor antigen specificity to cause a systemic inflammatory cytokine storm in the host. In a new study, Shaler et al. found that immune cells called mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells make an unexpectedly large contribution to the SAg response in a largely T-cell receptor-independent, cytokine-driven manner. Subsequent to such activation, the MAIT cells remain unresponsive to stimulation with bacterial antigen. Thus, S. aureus hijacks MAIT cells in the cytokine storm and leaves them functionally impaired. This work provides new insight into the role of MAIT cells in antibacterial immunity and opens new avenues of investigation to understand and possibly treat bacterial toxic shock and sepsis.
Project description:Superantigens (SAgs) play a major role in the pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus and are associated with several diseases, including food poisoning, bacterial arthritis, and toxic shock syndrome. Monoclonal antibodies to these SAgs, primarily TSST-1, SEB and SEA have been shown to provide protection in animal studies and to reduce clinical severity in bacteremic patients. Here we quantify the pre-existing antibodies against SAgs in many human plasma and IVIG samples and demonstrate that in a major portion of the population these antibody titers are suboptimal and IVIG therapy only incrementally elevates the anti-SAg titers. Our in vitro neutralization studies show that a combination of antibodies against SEA, SEB,and TSST-1 can provide broad neutralization of staphylococcal SAgs. We report a single fusion protein (TBA225) consisting of the toxoid versions of TSST-1, SEB and SEA and demonstrate its immunogenicity and protective efficacy in a mouse model of toxic shock. Antibodies raised against this fusion vaccine provide broad neutralization of purified SAgs and culture supernatants of multiple clinically relevant S. aureus strains. Our data strongly supports the use of this fusion protein as a component of an anti-virulence based multivalent toxoid vaccine against S. aureus disease.