Streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin C (SPEC), when injected intradermally, induces erythema in unsensitized rabbits. In the present study, we examined whether this erythema induction is due to the T-cell stimulatory activity of SPEC as a superantigen. Analysis by using single-residue mutant SPECs indicated that mutant SPECs Y15I, A16E, and Y17I, in which tyrosine 15, alanine 16, and tyrosine 17 were replaced with isoleucine, glutamic acid, and isoleucine, respectively, exhibited significantly reduced mitogenic activity for Vβ2+ human T cells in vitro, and Y15I showed as much as a 1,000-fold reduction. Y15I mutant SPEC, however, retained the ability to bind to major histocompatibility complex class II antigen and to form a homodimer, implying that residue 15 is critically important for the interaction of SPEC with T-cell antigen receptor β chains. When injected intradermally into normal rabbits, wild-type SPEC induced a characteristic erythema after 3 h in a dose-dependent fashion, which was associated with polymorphonuclear and mononuclear cell infiltration. This erythema formation was found to be severely suppressed by systemic pretreatment with cyclosporin A, suggesting the involvement of host T cells. Y15I mutant SPEC exhibited nearly 1,000-fold less erythema induction in vivo than wild-type SPEC. Altogether, the present results strongly suggest that erythema induction in rabbits by SPEC is attributable mostly to its T-cell stimulatory activity as a superantigen.