Main navigation

Staphylococcal Superantigens Stimulate Epithelial Cells through CD40 To Produce Chemokines





Mucosal and skin tissues form barriers to infection by most bacterial pathogens. Staphylococcus aureus causes diseases across these barriers in part dependent on the proinflammatory properties of superantigens. We showed, through use of a CRISPR-Cas9 CD40 knockout, that the superantigens toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 (TSST-1) and staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs) B and C stimulated chemokine production from human vaginal epithelial cells (HVECs) through human CD40. This response was enhanced by addition of antibodies against CD40 through an unknown mechanism. TSST-1 was better able to stimulate chemokine (IL-8 and MIP-3α) production by HVECs than SEB and SEC, suggesting this is the reason for TSST-1’s exclusive association with menstrual TSS. A mutant of TSST-1, K121A, caused TSS in a rabbit model when administered vaginally but not intravenously, emphasizing the importance of the local vaginal environment. Collectively, our data suggested that superantigens facilitate infections by disruption of mucosal barriers through their binding to CD40, with subsequent expression of chemokines. The chemokines facilitate TSS and possibly other epithelial conditions after attraction of the adaptive immune system to the local environment.