While all known microbial superantigens are mitogenic for human peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL), the functional response induced by Mycoplasma arthritidis-derived superantigen (MAM) is unique in that MAM stimulation of PBL consistently results in T cell-dependent B cell activation characterized by polyclonal IgM and IgG production. These immunostimulatory effects of MAM on the humoral arm of the human immune system warranted a more precise characterization of MAM-reactive human T cells. Using an uncloned MAM reactive human T cell line as immunogen, we have generated a monoclonal antibody (mAb) (termed C1) specific for the T cell receptor V beta gene expressed by the major fraction of MAM-reactive human T cells, V beta 17. In addition, a V beta 17- MAM-reactive T cell population exists, assessed by MAM, induced T cell proliferation and cytotoxic T cell activity. mAb C1 will be useful in characterizing the functional properties of V beta 17+ T cells and their potential role in autoimmune disease.