We investigated the mechanisms of murine T cell activation by streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin type A (SPE A), focusing on the role of MHC class II molecules on accessory cells (AC) and V beta usage in alpha beta TCR of SPE A-reactive T cells in comparison with staphylococcal enterotoxin B-reactive T cells. L cells transfected with I-Ab genes functioned as effective AC for SPE A-induced responses by C57BL/6 T cells, proliferation, and IL-2 production, but control L cells were not effective AC. Anti-I-Ab mAb inhibited the SPE A-induced responses. Staphylococcal enterotoxin B-induced C57BL/6 T cell blasts were composed of cells bearing V beta 3, members of the V beta 8 family, and V beta 11. Most of the SPE A-induced T cell blasts (about 80%) bore V beta 8.2. mAb reactive to V beta 8.2 markedly inhibited SPE A-induced T cell responses. Apparently, SPE A activates mainly T cells bearing V beta 8.2 in physical association with MHC class II molecules expressed on AC. We also discuss the pathogenic activities of SPE A in relation to toxic shock syndrome.