The staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE) family: SEB and siblings

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Staphylococcus aureus plays an important role in numerous human cases of food poisoning, soft tissue and bone infections, as well as potentially lethal toxic shock. This common bacterium synthesizes various virulence factors that include staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs). These protein toxins bind directly to major histocompatibility complex class II on antigen-presenting cells and specific Vβ regions of T-cell receptors, resulting in potentially life-threatening stimulation of the immune system. Picomolar concentrations of SEs ultimately elicit proinflammatory cytokines that can induce fever, hypotension, multi-organ failure, and lethal shock. Various in vitro and in vivo models have provided important tools for studying the biological effects of, as well as potential vaccines/therapeutics against, the SEs. This review succinctly presents known physical and biological properties of the SEs, including various intervention strategies. In particular, SEB will often be portrayed as per biodefense concerns dating back to the 1960s.

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