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What are examples of superantigens? Superantigens are substances that trigger an inappropriate and nonspecific activation of the immune system. Rather than triggering just a few cells and antibodies they trigger the production of a wide array of immune system components. Superantigens are typically exotoxins secreted by bacteria or endotoxins produced body cells after a viral infection. Food poisoning is often the result of superantigens as is toxic shock syndrome and scarlet fever. The release of massive amounts of lymphocytes and antibodies, often with effects that contradict one another, can cause serious illness.

View the animation below, then complete the quiz to test your knowledge of the concept.

A)bind specifically to T helper cell receptors
B)bind without antigen specificity to the outer portion of T helper cells and antigen presenting cells (APCs)
C)are bound inside specific MHC II antigens on APCs
D)bind to about 1 in 10,000 T cells
E)do not stimulate as many T helper cells as do antigens that bind with greater specificity

2Superantigens are produced by
B)Staphylococcus aureus in T cell dependent cytolysis
C)Staphylococcus aureus in toxic shock syndrome
D)E. coli in toxic shock syndrome
E)cells infected with specific viruses

3Possible symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include
C)nausea and vomiting
E)all of the above

4Toxic shock syndrome is a mild disease similar to other mild allergic reactions.

5Superantigens are processed by antigen presenting cells.

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