Microbial agents are known to play a significant role in aggravating allergic diseases. Recently described viral and bacterial superantigens represent one important strategy by which infectious agents can stimulate the immune response. In previous work, we reported that the staphylococcal toxin toxic shock toxin-1 (TSST-1), a prototypic superantigen, induces in vitro total IgE synthesis after cross-linking T and B cells. This study was carried out to establish a potential link between superantigens and the enhanced IgE response to specific allergens in allergic patients. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from atopic patients were isolated during and outside the pollen allergen season and stimulated with TSST-1, a prototypic superantigen. Total IgE and interferon-gamma production were measured in supernatants of these cultures. Outside the pollen season, TSST-1 significantly increased total IgE production only in the presence of exogenous interleukin-4, whereas during the pollen season IgE production was significantly enhanced without the need of exogenous interleukin-4. This increase in the absence of exogenous interleukin-4 was associated with significantly lower interferon-gamma production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells stimulated by TSST-1 during the pollen season. Moreover, TSST-1 stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from inhalant allergic patients was followed by an increased production of allergen-specific IgE that was restricted to the allergen to which the patient was allergic and recently exposed. In addition, TSST-1 induced on B cells the expression of B7.2, a molecule that has recently been demonstrated to enhance T helper 2 responses and to be involved in IgE regulation. This study, by demonstrating that superantigens can augment allergen-specific IgE synthesis and B7.2 expression, provides a mechanism by which microbial superantigens may modulate allergic responses.