Kawasaki syndrome (KS), the major cause of acquired heart disease in children, is an acute multisystem vasculitis frequently associated with the development of myocarditis and coronary artery abnormalities. Despite the widely held belief that KS is an infectious disease, its etiology has remained elusive. Recently, we and others have reported the selective expansion of V beta 2+ T cells in the peripheral blood of most patients in the acute, but not in the convalescent, phase of KS. These data were consistent with the concept that this illness is triggered by a bacterial superantigen. We report here that a patient who died of acute KS had selective expansion of V beta 2+ T cells in her myocardium and coronary artery. Sequence analysis of TCR beta-chain genes of V beta 2+ T cells from the myocardium showed extensive junctional region diversity. These observations, along with the demonstration of V beta 2 expansion in both the CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets, support the concept that the activation of infiltrating V beta 2+ T cells are involved in the cardiovascular damage associated with KS.

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