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The bacterial superantigen and superantigen-like proteins.

The bacterial superantigens are protein toxins that bind to major histocompatibility complex class II and T-cell receptor to stimulate large numbers of T cells. The majority are produced by the Gram-positive organisms Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes and are the causative agents in toxic shock syndrome, an acute disease caused by the sudden and massive release of T-cell cytokines into the blood stream. The structure and function of the superantigens has revealed a common architecture that is also shared by another group of staphylococcal virulence factors called the superantigen-like proteins (SSL). Together, this family of structurally related molecules highlights how a common pathogenic organism has employed a simple but adaptable protein to generate an armamentarium of potent defense molecules designed to target of the innate and adaptive immune response.

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