Staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs) have been shown to bind to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II proteins and stimulate T cells in a V beta-specific manner, and these V beta specificities for various SEs have been well documented in mice and humans. This study was undertaken in order to examine the ability of human class II molecules to present SEs to human and murine T cell hybridomas. Using a panel of transfectants expressing individual HLA class II antigens, we have shown that HLA-DR alleles differ in their ability to bind and present SEs. Since the HLA-DR proteins share a common alpha chain, these results indicate that the polymorphic beta chain plays an important role in SE binding and presentation to T cells. In addition, we have shown that human class II isotypes markedly differ in their ability to present SEs. The results of this study should provide information on the region of MHC class II molecules that interacts with foreign, and perhaps self, super-antigens.