Staphylococcal enterotoxins (SE) and toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 bind directly to class II molecules of the MHC and stimulate T cells based predominantly on the Vβ segment used by the TCR. We investigated the relationship between the class II binding affinities of four of these exotoxins, SEA, SEB, SEC1, and toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 and their T cell signaling capabilities. Although the toxins stimulated T cells at concentrations that ranged over more than two orders of magnitude, their affinities for class II (DR1) differed by less than sixfold. The affinities of the toxins predicted their capacity to stimulate resting T cells to proliferate. The binding affinities of the toxins for class II molecules indicated that at concentrations required for T cell stimulation, as few as 0.1% of the class II molecules are complexed with toxin. Finally, the isotype of class II molecules affected the ability of the toxins to bind and use these MHC Ag to stimulate T cells. These data thus demonstrate that of the staphylococcal exotoxins studied, both their potency as T cell mitogens and their ability to function in the presence of single class II isotypes can be attributed in part to their characteristic abilities to bind class II molecules.