The open reading frames of the 3' long terminal repeat of mouse mammary tumor viruses (MMTV) encode superantigens. When expressed with MHC class II molecules on the surface of B cells, superantigens stimulate T cells expressing receptors with particular V(β) elements. By using B cell lymphomas as model systems, we demonstrate that stimuli, including certain lymphokines (IL-2 and IL-5) and LPS, that lead to increased MMTV transcript levels in B cells did not increase functional superantigen presentation. Furthermore, stimulation of BCL1 and CH12 cells with LPS resulted in a pronounced reduction in superantigen presentation, even though MMTV transcript levels were increased. In contrast to these effects, functional superantigen expression was increased under conditions in which class II levels were increased, even when MMTV levels remained constant, indicating that the levels of newly synthesized class II are important for functional superantigen expression. These data together imply that the amount of cell surface class II limits superantigen presentation and/or that superantigens can associate only with a limited pool of class II.