We compared T cell responses of human, rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta), and chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) to four bacterial superantigens. When lymphocytes were cultured in media supplemented with species-specific sera, chimpanzee T cells were stimulated by lower doses of staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE) A and toxic shock syndrome toxin 1 (TSST1) than were human T cells, while chimpanzee responses to SEB and SEC1 were nearly equivalent to the human response. Interestingly, rhesus lymphocytes responded to 10,000 times lower amounts of SEA, SEB, and SEC1 and to 100 times lower concentrations of TSST1 than human cells. The greater sensitivity of rhesus T cells to these toxins was not a result of differences in class II binding affinities and was only partly attributable to the presence of anti-SE and TSST1 antibodies in human serum. These results suggest that rhesus T lymphocytes are more sensitive toward these bacterial superantigens than human T cells.