In vitro studies of several naturally occurring proteins have characterized VH family-specific B lymphocyte binding and stimulatory properties that appear analogous to those of T cell superantigens. To examine the in vivo consequences of exposure to a putative B cell superantigen, we treated neonatal BALB/c mice with a form of staphylococcal protein A (MS) devoid of Fcgamma binding activity, which retains the clan VHIII Fab binding specificity. In naive adults, about 5% of peripheral B cells and >13% of splenic IgM-secreting cells display MS binding activity, in association with high IgM and low IgG circulating anti-MS Ab titers. Neonatal exposure to MS elicited two distinct temporal phases of immune responsiveness. The early phase, representing the first approximately 5 wk of life, was associated with MS-specific B cell and T cell tolerance. Microfluorometric assays revealed that exposure caused a dramatic MS-specific B cell clonal loss in bone marrow and spleen, but levels normalized by about 3 wk of life. The late phase (>6 wk of age) was associated with spontaneous priming for MS-specific T cell responses and production of MS-specific IgG1 Abs despite long term persistently depressed in vivo and in vitro MS-specific IgM responses. In vivo challenge during the late phase induced high frequencies of MS-specific IgG-secreting cells, indicating recruitment of highly focused Ab responses that were predominantly encoded by rearrangements of the S107 family, a member of the VHIII clan. These studies document the immunodominance of the VH-restricted Fab binding site on staphylococcal protein A and demonstrate the diverse effects of a B cell superantigen on the emerging peripheral B cell compartment.
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View details for PubMedID 9820554