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Volume 14, Number 5—May 2008

Books and Media

Superantigens: Molecular Basis for Their Role in Human Diseases

Suggested citation for this article

Malak Kotb; John D. Frasereditors
ASM Press, Washington, DC, USA, 2007
ISBN-10: 1555814247
ISBN-13: 978-1555814243
Pages: 263; Price: US $129.95

This collection of short reviews by experts in the field provides a complete overview of microbial superantigens, an unusual family of proteins that form an abnormal linkage between the major histocompatibility complex class II antigens and specific T-cell repertoire Vβ families. This linkage leads to the nonspecific activation of large numbers of regulatory T lymphocytes, producing cytokine storms that can have a variety of serious clinical consequences.

The book is organized into 5 sections with a total of 16 chapters. The first section is an overview of the breadth and scope of superantigen research, including an up-to date catalog of superantigens characterized from both bacteria and viruses, their cellular interactions, and disease associations. The next 3 chapters deal with the 3-dimensional structure, function, and diversity of superantigens, including an account of the critical involvement of zinc in the optimal binding of some of these proteins. Section 3 contains an entire chapter that describes the pathophysiology of superantigens in both acute and chronic skin disorders. Several chapters in section 4 describe in vitro and animal model systems for the study of diseases caused by superantigens, including autoimmune disease, neuropathology, toxic shock, and others.

The final 4 chapters in section 5 detail various therapeutic approaches for superantigen-mediated diseases. These approaches include conventional antibiotics, antagonistic peptides, intravenous immunoglobulin, antibodies directed to T-cell costimulatory receptors, and superantigen receptor mimics, in addition to existing and experimental approaches. An unnumbered section after the first chapter contains high-quality color plate illustrations, which collectively provide outstanding visual support for several chapters.

Superantigens affords a comprehensive look at the current state of knowledge regarding these interesting proteins in a relatively compact volume. The text is certainly a must-read for any scientist engaged in their study but will also prove a rewarding read for microbiologists interested in this curious interaction between mibrobes and the immune system.

D. Scott Schmid*Comments to Author 
Author affiliation: *Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

Suggested citation for this article: Schmid DS. Superantigens: molecular basis for their role in human diseases [book review]. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2008 May [date cited]. Available from

DOI: 10.3201/eid1405.080089

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Table of Contents – Volume 14, Number 5—May 2008

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