S Holtfreter, K Bauer, D Thomas, C Feig, V Lorenz, K Roschack, E Friebe, K Selleng, S Lövenich, T Greve, A Greinacher, B Panzig, S Engelmann, G Lina, BM Bröker
PCR was employed to determine the presence of all known superantigen genes (sea, seq, and tst) and of the exotoxin-like gene cluster (set) in 40 Staphylococcus aureus isolates from blood cultures and throat swabs; 28 isolates harbored superantigen genes, five on average, and this strictly correlated with their ability to stimulate T-cell proliferation. In contrast, the set gene cluster was detected in every S. aureus strain, suggesting a nonredundant function for these genes which is different from T-cell activation. No more than 10% of normal human serum samples inhibited the T-cell stimulation elicited by egc-encoded enterotoxins (staphylococcal enterotoxins G, I, M, N, and O), whereas between 32 and 86% neutralized the classical superantigens. Similarly, intravenous human immunoglobulin G preparations inhibited egc-encoded superantigens with 10- to 100-fold-reduced potency compared with the classical enterotoxins. Thus, there are surprisingly large gaps in the capacity of human serum samples to neutralize S. aureus superantigens.