Polyclonal activation by endogenous agents

Do functioning polyclonal activators or inactivators exist endogenously in unmanipulated animals? An indication of endogenous polyclonal activation is the considerable amount of both B and T cell activity that occurs in germ-free mice not exposed to exogenous antigens. However, the degree to which these activities are due to endogenous polyclonal activators versus multiple antigen-specific stimuli is not known. Another example is that of superantigens produced by endogenous retroviruses in certain mouse strains which result in activation followed by deletion of T cells with antigen receptors that react with the superantigens. The binding of superantigens by T cells does not involve the antigen-binding site of the T cell antigen receptors but conserved parts of the variable region. Thus, superantigens affect T cells with different antigen specificities. Superantigens link T cells to major histocompatibility antigen on antigen-presenting cells and induce the activation-in-activation cycle.

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