Oral Presentation 20th Lancefield International Symposium on Streptococci and Streptococcal Diseases 2017

Nasopharyngeal infection by Streptococcus pyogenes requires superantigen-responsive Vβ-specific T cells (#90)

Joseph J Zeppa 1 , Katherine J Kasper 1 , Ivor Mohorovic 1 , Delfina M Mazzuca 1 , S. M. Mansour Haeryfar 1 , John K McCormick 1
  1. Western University, London, ONTARIO, Canada

The globally prominent pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes secretes potent immunomodulatory proteins known as superantigens (SAgs) which engage lateral surfaces of major histocompatibility class II molecules and T cell receptor (TCR) β-chain variable domains (Vβ). These interactions result in the activation of numerous Vβ-specific T cells, which is the defining activity of a SAg. Although streptococcal SAgs are known virulence factors in scarlet fever and toxic shock syndrome, mechanisms by how SAgs contribute to the life cycle of S. pyogenes remain poorly understood. Herein, we demonstrate that passive immunization against the Vβ8-targeting SAg streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin A (SpeA), or active immunization with either wild-type or a non-functional SpeA mutant protects mice from nasopharyngeal infection; however, only passive immunization, or vaccination with inactive SpeA, resulted in high-titer SpeA-specific antibodies in vivo. Mice vaccinated with wild-type SpeA rendered Vβ8+ T cells poorly responsive, which prevented infection. This phenotype was reproduced with staphylococcal enterotoxin B, a heterologous SAg that also targets Vβ8+ T cells, and rendered mice resistant to infection. Furthermore, antibody-mediated depletion of T cells prevented nasopharyngeal infection by S. pyogenes, but not by Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterium that does not produce SAgs. Remarkably, these observations suggest that S. pyogenes utilizes SAgs to manipulate Vβ-specific T cells to establish nasopharyngeal infection.