Experimentally induced murine graft-vs.-host disease may be characterized by hypergammaglobulinemia, autoantibody formation, and immune complex-mediated organ system damage that mimics SLE. These autoimmune phenomena are mediated by abnormal Th-B cell cooperation, across MHC disparities, in which donor-derived allospecific Th cells recognize and interact with MHC class II antigens on the surface of recipient B cells. Microbial toxins, termed superantigens, which bind to MHC class II molecules and activate selected T cells based on TCR variable gene usage, may induce a similar form of Th-B cell interaction. In the present study, we generated and characterized human Th cell lines reactive with the Mycoplasma arthritidis superantigen (MAM). The essential observation is that resting human B cells bind MAM and present it to superantigen-reactive autologous or allogeneic Th cells, resulting in both Th cell activation and a consequent polyclonal Ig response by the superantigen-bearing B cells.

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